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(CLASS OF 1912) 



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The present Bishop of Winchester, in fulfilling the duty 

^t was honourably imposed upon him, of editing a post- 
nous production of England's greatest Epic Poet, makes 
the following observation : — " There is much reason for 
Regretting that the prose works of Milton — where, in the 
ttiidst of much that is coarse and intemperate, passages of 
*Uch redeeming beauty occur — should be in the hands of so 
few readers ; considering the advantage which might be 
derived to our literature from the study of their original 
Mid nervous eloquence." 

Several obvious reasons may account for this neglect; and 
the first of these is, that a somewhat repulsive influence 
obstructs the inquirer at the very threshold of this rare 
but almost unexplored cabinet of British literature. 

The very names of many of Milton's prose works present 
themselves to all but the learned, as an array of quaint 
forms, which frown upon the uninitiated. Their style, like 
ftie waters, of the fabled stream, is turbid with the grains 
*ff classic gold ; and the literary habits of the writer were so 
Closely connected with ancient and foreign literature, as to 
leprive his writings of that strictly national character 
Much is essential to a wide popularity. 

But a farther and a still more potent cause has concealed 
Hie writings of Milton from the careful inspection of his 



countrymen. It has been said of the Puritans, that, 
the victorious lion, they were depicted by their oppon<s ==: ^ 
And so it has fared with Milton. His most emi^ *^ 
biographers, as members of the Church of England, ^x*^** 
had no sympathy with their illustrious subject in 
grandest phase which his character and his writ^^y 
present. / 

Milton, unequalled as a poet, and memorable and exem- 
plary as a statesman, was most especially a Nonconformist, 
an advocate of religious freedom, unshackled by secular 
and political interference ; — in a word, a Puritan, in all but 
those excesses of untempered zeal which historians and 
satirists have combined to exaggerate, in order to dim the 
historic lustre they cannot hide, and to throw contempt on 
a cause which must rise proportionately with the elevation 
and advancement of mankind. 

It is the purpose of the following pages to present Milton 
afresh to the public as the champion of political, and es- 
pecially of religious liberty; and, while delineating the 
few incidents of his life, to present such passages from his 
prose writings, especially on ecclesiastical subjects, as may 
invite the attention of the public to the whole of those much 
neglected but immortal productions. 

All the circumstances of the present times, and particularly 
the events which, in the religious world, have of late been 
thickening around us, compel the attention of society to 
those fundamental principles which Milton so sublimely 
developed and illustrated. 

To assist in guiding this movement of the popular mind 
to the study of the works of Milton, is the earnest aim of 
this biography: and if it should subserve this end, its 
author will be content that his own labours should be dis- 
regarded or forgotten. 

June, 1851. 






cantiness of the Material offered by Men like Milton to the 
mere Biographer — Great Men produced in Ages of Transi- 
tion — General Features of the Age in which Milton lived 
— Effects* of the Reformation — Retention of the Essence 
of Popery — Alliance of the Church with the State . 1 

irth and Parentage of Milton — Notice of his Father — Early 
Education and Habits of the Son — His earliest extant 
Poem — Enters the University of ' Cambridge — His 
Poems and Exercises at College — Calumnies against his 
•Morals at this Period — His Refutation of them — His 
Reasons for declining the Clerical Profession — Notice of 
Dr. Johnson's Observations thereon . . .7 

ilton's Residence at Horton — Composes the Comus — Ly- 
. cidas — Arcades — L' Allegro — II Penseroso — Death of his 
Mother-"- Ambitious Aspirations — Visits Italy, and is re- 
ceived with great distinction — His Address to Manso— 
Remarks of Mr. Macaulay on his Latin Versification . 21 

ilton contemplates the Production of an Epic Poem — Visits 
Galileo — Returns to England — Notice of Dr. Johnson's * 
Disparaging Remarks — Milton's Justification of himself— 
Publishes his Treatise of Reformation in England — Ana- 
lysis of the work — Noble Invocation at the close . . 35 





Milton publishes his Treatises u On Prelatical Episcopacy," 
and " The Reason of Church Government urged against 
Prelacy," in Answer to Bishop Hall and Archbishop Usher 
— Criticism on their Style — Analysis of both Treatises . 51 


Milton publishes his " Animadversions on the Remonstrants 1 
Defence " — The most striking Passage from this Work — 
The Episcopalian claim to the right of Ordination — Ap- 
pearance of the " Modest Confutation " — Milton replies 
in the " Apology for Smectymnuus " — Analysis of the 
Work — Defence of the Parliament — Relics of Rome in the 
Anglican Church • ... .7! 


Milton's Marriage — Is deserted by his Wife — Publishes his 
Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce — Effect of the exist- 
ing Laws on Personal Religion — Their Bearing on Chris- 
tian Liberty — Publication of the Judgment of Martin 
Bucer concerning Divorce — The Tetrachordon — The 
Colasterion . . .. . - . 9£ 


State of Religious Parties in England— Persecutions by Laud 
and the Courts of High Commission and Star Chamber — 
Persecuting Bigotry of the Presbyterians — Meeting of the 
Westminster Assembly — The Solemn League and Cove- 
nant — Catastrophe of the Royal Cause — Repentance and 
Return of Milton's Wife — He publishes his Treatise on 
Education — Analysis of the Work . . .101 


Milton publishes his " Speech for the Liberty of Unlicensed 
Printing " — Analysis of the Work — Noble Passages occur- 
ring in it — Discharge of Mabbot, the Licenser, at his own 
request . . . . • . .11 

Milton's Sonnets — Domestic Incidents— Conduct of the Pres- 



byterians — Publication of the " Tenure of Kings and Ma- 
gistrates " — Eulogies on Fairfax, Vane, and Bradahaw — 
Analysis of the Treatise on the " Tenure of Kings and 
Magistrates " . . . . . . . 127 


bservations on the Articles of Peace — Manifesto of the Pres- 
bytery at Belfast — Milton composes Four Books of his 
English History — Is appointed Latin Secretary under 
Cromwell — Selection from his Letters of State : — Perse- 
cution of the Waldenses — His successful Efforts in their 
behalf — His Sonnet on the Massacre in Piedmont . 147 

iblication of the Eikon Basilike — Authorship of the Eikon 
— Milton Replies in the Eikonoklastes — Publication of 
the Royal Defence by Salmasius — Milton replies in his 
First Defence of the People of England — Description of 
'the Work and of its Effects — The most striking Passages 
from the Defence of the People of England . .161 


)omestic Changes — Birth of Two Children to Milton — Death 
of his Wife — Suffers the Loss of Sight — His Letter to 
Leonardi Philaras, the Athenian, detailing the History of 
the Disease — His Magnanimity and pious Resignation — 
Sonnet on his Blindness — His Second Marriage, and Se- 
cond Bereavement of his Wife and her Infant Child — 
Sonnet on his deceased Wife . . . .174 


ublication of the 4l Regii Sanguinis Clamor " — The Second 
Defence of the People of England — Character of the 
Puritans — Eulogy on Christina of Sweden — The First 
Defence unrewarded with Money — Vindication of the 
Protector — Eulogy on Cromwell . . .182 

msequences of the Death of Cromwell— Milton publishes 


' * a 

the u Treatise of tbe Civil Power in Ecclesiastical Causes." 

— Analysis of the Work — Publishes the " Considerations 
touching the likeliest Means to remove Hirelings out of 
1 the Church "—Analysis of the Work . . .Ml 


Effects of Political Revolutions — Fickleness of the Army — 
Milton publishes his Tracts upon the Commonwealth — 
Analysis of these Treatises — Restoration of Charles II. — 
Milton is secreted by his Friends — Passing of the Act of 
Oblivion . . . . . . 21$ 


Milton's Changes of Residence — His Third Marriage — His 
Connexion with Ell wood — Removal to Chalfont — Com- 
pletes the " Paradise Lost " — Early History of this Poem 
— Letter to Heimbach — " Paradise Regained " — " Samson 
Agonistes" . . . . . .228 


Milton publishes his Treatise of" True Religion, Heresy, Schism, 
Toleration," &c. — Analysis of the Work — Minor Publica- 
tions — Recent Discovery of the two Books " On the Know- 
ledge and the Service of God"—- Notice of the main Doctrines 
asserted in the Work — Milton's Religious Character — His 
Death — Description of his Person and Habits — Conclu- 



It is a condition, at which it is futile to repine, belonging 
to those who in all ages have been born to guide a country 
amidst the stormy vicissitudes of a revolution, that they can be 
but little known as individuals to succeeding generations. 
Such men can scarcely be said to have, during their active 
years, a personal and private life. Scarcely any of those 
who are either desirous or capable of transmitting to pos- 
terity the portraiture of the Man, have close and frequent 
access to the leaders, whether military or civil, of national 
transition. And as little, too, have those heroes such close 
and leisurely access to themselves, as admits of their giving to 
mankind that most valuable of biographies which can be best, 
if not solely, recorded by the individual, and which would 
exhibit the development of those inner principles which, 
ultimately embodied in their public acts, have influenced or 
decided the destinies of their country. The biography of 
such men is, for the most part, little else than a fragment 
of the history of their times. 

To those who can appreciate the loftiest intellectual 
powers, sustained by vast learning, and enriched with the 



rarest treasures of fancy; and moral majesty, relieved of ill 
sternness by the tenderest affections of the heart, it must 
ever be matter of regret that John Milton is one of those 
whose intimacy they cannot enjoy through the fiairnKg 
introduction of biography. We are, indeed, ushered by his- 
tory near enough to his presence to pay our homage ; but m 
can never be presented with that audience of his conver- 
sation, and those charming glimpses of his privacy, which 
have perpetuated the domestic life of so many inferior mea, 
and which, especially in the case of the most eminent, but 
most unjust of his biographers, has brought us as well 
acquainted with Dr. Johnson as with our daily associates. 

The life of Milton may be divided into three epochs, the 
occupations of each of which were unfavourable to the 
interest of a pure biography. The first was spent in 
amassing those stores of learning which were to his vast 
intellect what machinery is to motive power. The second, 
after a brief but romantic interval of travel, was occupied 
with political and polemical controversy, and with public 
and official affairs; and the third was spent in a retirement 
rendered sacred alike by genius and sorrow, in which, 
from the aggregate resources of his knowledge, and the 
chastened, yet undmiinished, powers of his fancy, he pro- 
duced the great epic of the English language. Such a life 
can only be graduated by mental and literary landmarks. 
Its historical events were few ; and, had they been ever so 
numerous, or ever so prominent, they would have been lost 
in the splendour of his intellectual career. In such a life, 
the dates of works as lasting as language, take the place 
which, in other lives, is occupied by waning victories and 
dubious and perishable honours. 

The main purpose of these pages, however, is to circum- 
scribe the biography of Milton within a still narrower 
compass. In reproducing to the public the incidents of his 
life, our chief design will be to develop, and that mainly 
in his own stately and impressive language, the principles 


find views which he maintained on ecclesiastical subjects. 
These, indeed, formed the staple of his intellectual history. 
A considerable portion of his prose writings is devoted to 
the maintenance of these principles ; while, even in those 
treatises which are purely political, we incessantly find the 
evidence, not only of his nonconformity to the episcopalian 
system in general, but especially of his deep-seated aversion 
to the alliance of any system of belief and worship with 
the more coarse, unspiritual, and heterogeneous powers of 
the state. 

It was the lot of Milton to flourish in an era of transition ; 
and it is remarkable, though by no means unaccountable, 
that such times, throughout the history of the world, have 
produced the men who have most powerfully influenced the 
destinies of their own age and all succeeding generations. 
It was amidst the stormiest periods of Grecian history that 
we find those historians, orators, statesmen, and generals, 
who at once rescued their age and their memory from 
oblivion; and it was amidst the transitions of the Roman 
commonwealth and empire that those minds were nurtured, 
who, in all the highest pursuits allotted to man, illustrated 
'.their age and their species together, and whose writings 
have nurtured the youth, and attracted the universal admi- 
ration of all succeeding times. Almost within our own 
recollection the overthrow of political and spiritual despotism 
in France was heralded and attended by minds such as that 
nation had not been wont to gaze at and applaud, nor the 
sounder portion of the civilized world to weigh and esti- 

Times, in many respects similar, witnessed the birth and 
history of John Milton. The revival of letters by the in- 
vention of the art of printing had previously communicated 
an unexampled impulse to the human mind. The papal 
religion had heretofore gathered its spoils and consolidated 
its empire amidst a darkness only broken by occasional rays 
of art, and occasional luminaries of learning. With what 


a cold obliqueness these fell upon the popular mind, let the 
history of the middle ages testify. In spite of the wild or 
affected fantasies of the day, it becomes thinking men to 
designate these as the dark ages. That their institutions 
preserved to us the treasures of ancient literature, is, indeed, 
true; but they preserved them in a coffer of which few 
ecclesiastics kept the keys, and fewer still used them, saw 
for the purpose of drawing forth and perpetuating mo- 
nastic rubbish. 

This darkness, and the delusions which it harboured, had 
in this country been partly dispelled by the Reformation. 
I say partially; for few readers need be told that in 
England the principles of the Reformation were but im- 
perfectly carried out. Commenced under a monarch who 
was one of the basest and most unprincipled of mankind, it 
was carried on by two parties of whom it is difficult to say 
which was the more unfavourable to the interests of religion 
and freedom — the one being solely interested in obtaining 
the largest measure of secular spoil, and the other in 
securing the greatest number of the people to aggrandise 
the power and state of a new but homogeneous hierarchy. 
The Reformation was a compromise between these parties, 
and those who desired to restore to the church its primitive 
purity and simplicity of faith and worship ; but the con- 
struction of the scheme indicates far more of Jesuitical 
subtlety than of the Christian manliness of the great 
reformers. The scheme of the Anglican church propitiated 
the Protestants by presenting the Scriptures, and adopting 
various formularies of public worship, in the vernacular 
language ; by abjuring the infallibility of the pope, the 
adoration of the Virgin, the invocation of saints and angels, 
the sacrifice of the mass, and the doctrine of meritorious 
works. Rut its authors retained and re-established so much 
of the essence of popery as well-nigh nullified the abjura- 
tions. Admitting a priesthood and an altar, they implied a 
sacrifice; they invested that priesthood with imaginary gifts 


descending by direct transmission from the apostles, and 
through this figment found their way to the doctrine of 
sacramental efficacy. If they denied the infallibility of the 
pope, they transferred it to the church,* and added to it the 
still more baneful dogma of the ecclesiastical supremacy of 
the monarch. While they abjured the mass they so stated 
the doctrine of the Eucharist, as to admit of its being wrested 
(as is commonly done in the present day) to the notion 
of a perpetual oblation. Their Prayer-book was little else 
than an English translation of the Romish liturgy and offices, 
teaching men to invoke and commemorate the saints to whom 
they had ceased to pray, and to continue the vain repetitions 
and still vainer material observances which popery had ever 
substituted for the " reasonable service " of the human mind. 

The observation of Lord Russell, with regard to the 
scheme of Henry VIII., requires but little modification to 
make it applicable to every subsequent period : — "The reli- 
gion established by Henry/' he remarks, " was so far from 
being the reformed church of Luther, or of Calvin, that he 
prided himself in maintaining the Roman Catholic faith, 
after he had shaken off the supremacy of the pope. His 
ordinances, indeed, vibrated for a short time between the 
old and the new religion, as he listened more to Cranmer or 
to Gardiner ; but the law of the six articles, which contains 
the creed he finally imposed on his people, maintains and 
confirms all the leading articles of the Roman belief." 

It might be supposed that a church embodying, though in 
a diluted form, the tenets of the popish religion, but without 
the prestige of its authority or antiquity, usurping the gor- 
geous edifices of the Catholic church, but for a worship 
which was shorn of the splendour which corresponded to 
them, contained within itself the seeds of rapid dissolution. 
And, doubtless, its destruction would have been speedy and 
complete had not its authors moored it safely to the state, 

* Article XX: " The Church hath power to decree rites and cere" 
monies, and authority in controversies of faith." 


so that its abolition might involve the perils of a political 1 
revolution. This arrangement not only contributed to the | 
solidity of the ecclesiastical despotism, but supplied it with ' 
an ample armoury for the subjugation and punishment of all 
dissentients. It was at the period when Archbishop Laud 
and his associates, armed with these terrible powers, and 
" breathing threatenings and slaughter," were devastating 
the Christian church in this country, that John Milton 
was raised up by the providence of God to defend and revive 
" expiring Liberty." 





John Milton was born at his father's house, in Bread 
Street, Cheapside, on the 9th of December, 1608. His fa- 
ther appears, in some respects, to have been worthy to have 
his name perpetuated by such a son; for, while prosecuting 
his studies at the University of Oxford, he became convinced 
of the anti-christian character of the popish religion, and 
embraced the protestant faith at the sacrifice of his paternal 
inheritance and his immediate prospects. Having abruptly 
quitted the University upon this change of his fortunes, he 
commenced practice in London as a scrivener; and, while 
procuring the means of giving a high education to his son, 
he found leisure for the pursuit of various studies, and espe- 
cially that of music, in which he seems to have attained 
considerable excellence. This accomplishment his son rated 
so highly, that he associated it with his own poetic genius 
and fame, in a Latin poem, subsequently addressed to his 
father, distinguished as much for its filial piety as for that 
classic latinity in which Milton has but few rivals in modern 
times. The passage referred to has been thus translated: — 


Nor yon affect to scorn the Aonian quire, 

Bless'd by their smiles and glowing with their fire. 

You ! who by them inspired, with art profound, 

Can wield the magic of proportion'd sound : 

Through thousand tones can teach the voice to stray, 

And wind to harmony its mazy way, — 

Arion's tuneful heir : — then wonder not 

A poet-child should be by you begot. 

My kindred blood is warm with kindred flame, 

And the son treads his father's track to fame. 

Phoebus controls us with a common sway ; 

To you commends his lyre, — to me his lay : 

Whole in each bosom makes his just abode, 

With child and sire the same, though varied god. 

In answer to some malignant insinuations thrown out in 
after life by a political adversary, Milton, in his second 
defence to the people of England, presents with equal 
brevity and modesty a view of his early history. In this we 
find the following reference to his boyhood: "My father 
destined me from a child to the pursuits of literature ; and 
my appetite for knowledge was so voracious, that, from 
twelve years of age, I hardly ever left my studies or went 
to bed before midnight. This primarily led to my loss of 
sight. My eyes were naturally weak, and I was subject to 
frequent head-aches, which, however, could not chill the 
ardour of my curiosity, or retard the progress of my improve- 
ment. My father had me daily instructed in the Grammar- 
school, and by other masters at home." Aubrey, also, in his 
MS. Life of Milton, preserved in the Ashmolean Museum at 
Oxford, relates that, "when Milton went to schoole, and 
when he was very younge, he studied very hard, and sate up 
very late, commonly till twelve or one o'clock ; and his father 
ordered the maid to sitt up for him." At the age of fifteen, 
that is, in the year 1623, Milton was admitted to St. Paul's 
School, and in the same year produced the first poems which 
have cpme down to our time ; although, from the authority 
before quoted, we learn that he was a poet at ten years old, at 
which age his first portrait was executed by Cornelius Jansen. 



To those who are interested in tracing in "the child the 
father of the man," it will be delightful to examine these 
early productions; just as "the little rill near the source 
of one of the great American rivers is an interesting object 
to the traveller who is apprised, as he steps across it, or 
walks a few miles along its banks, that this is the stream 
which runs so far, and which gradually swells into so vast 
a flood."* The poems referred to are versions of the 114th 
and 136th Psalms. The former of these is inserted as being 
the shorter, and, perhaps, the more characteristic. Milton 
afterward translated it into Greek verse. 


When the blest seed of Terah's faithful son 

After long toil their liberty had won ; 

And pass'd from Pharian fields to Canaan land, 

Led by the strength of the Almighty's hand; 

Jehovah's wonders were in Israel shown, 

His praise and glory was in Israel known. 

That saw the troubled sea, and shivering fled, 

And sought to hide his froth-becurled head 

Low in the earth ; Jordan's clear streams recoil, 

As a faint host that hath received the foil. 

The high, huge-bellied mountains skip, like rams 

Amongst their ewes : the little hills, like lambs. 

Why fled the ocean ? And why skipt the mountains? 

Why turned Jordan toward his crystal fountains ? 

Shake, earth ; and at the presence be aghast 

Of Him that ever was, and aye shall last; 

That glassy floods from rugged rocks can crush, 

And make soft rills from fiery flint-stones gush ! 

In his seventeenth year he commenced his University 
career at Christ College, Cambridge. For this he was pre- 
pared by an extensive acquaintance with classical literature, 
and a knowledge of several modern languages acquired at St. 
Paul's School. But it was to the poets that he devoted his 
chief attention, and for the appreciation of them he modestly 
lays claim but to one, and that a very subordinate qualifica- 
tion, — an exquisite nicety of ear. It was in this the first 
* Foster's Essay on a Man's writing Memoirs of himself. 


year of his college life that he wrote his elegy " On the death 
of a Fair Infant," which is too long for insertion, but which 
indicates a great advance upon his earlier productions in 
maturity of mind and in facility of management. It cannot 
be said of Milton that he ever set any author before him as 
a model. It is, however, evident that Ovid was the reigning 
favourite of the youthful poet, and, even amidst the multi- 
farious learning which, as if by a necessity he could not 
control, crowded the productions of his after life, it is easy 
to trace the frequent reminiscences of his first love. 

At college he was particularly admired for his academical 
exercises, both in Latin and English verse. The former 
language he wrote through life with as much ease and 
force as if it had been his vernacular tongue. In his prose 
writings, indeed, he never affected a pedantic conformity 
to the classic models, though in Latin verse his resemblance 
to them was at once so close and so natural, that Mr. 
Macaulay justly applies to him a tasteful criticism on 
Cowley, that " he wore the garb but not the clothes of the 
ancients. ,, 

In the year 1627 he produced a "vacation exercise in 
the College," of which Todd remarks that, written at the age 
of nineteen, it has been repeatedly and justly noticed as 
containing indications of the future bard, " whose genius 
was equal to a subject that carried him beyond the limits of 
the world." In the following lines the reader will discern 
the twilight that heralded the undeclining day of Comus, 

11 Penseroso, and the Paradise Lost. Addressing the per- 
sonification of the English language, he writes: — 

Yet I had rather, if I were to chuse, 

Thy service in some graver subject use, 

Such as may make thee search thy coffers round, 

Before thou clothe my fancy in fit sound: 

Such where the deep transported mind may soar 

Above the wheeling poles, and at heaven's door 

Look in, and see each blissful deity; 

How he before the thunderous throne doth lie, 


Listening to what unshorn Apollo sings 

To the touch of golden wires, while Hebe brings 

Immortal nectar to her kingly sire : 

Then passing through the spheres of watchful fire, 

And misty regions of wide air next under, 

And hills of snow, and lofts of piled thunder, 

May tell at length how green-eyed Neptune raves, 

In heaven's defiance mastering all his waves ; 

Then sing of secret things that came to pass 

When beldam Nature in her cradle was; 

And last of kings, and queens, and heroes old, 

Such as the wise Demodocus once told 

In solemn songs at King Alcinous' feast, 

While sad Ulysses' soul, and all the rest, 

Are held, with his melodious harmony, 

In willing chains and sweet captivity. 

Two years afterwards he produced his "Ode on the 
Morning of Christ's Nativity." A hypercritical analysis 
has detected some fancied faults in this exquisite poem. 
But if the writers referred to had recollected the age in 
which (not to say at which) it was written, or the canon 
of candour which a great poetical critic* of antiquity 
left for the guidance of his successors, they might, perhaps, 
have spared their ingenuity. It hears a stamp of premature, 
hut conscious, majesty in every verse; while in the very 
music of such stanzas as the following, there reigns a spirit 
of silence which is charmingly appropriate, and irresistihly 
impressive : — 

No war, or battle's sound, 

Was heard the world around : 
The idle spear and shield were high uphung ; 

The hooked chariot stood 

Unstain'd with hostile blood ; 
The trumpet spake not to the armed throng ; 

And kings sat still with awful eye, 

As if they surely knew their sov'ran Lord was by. 

* Verum ubi plura nitent in carmine, non ego paucis 
Offendar maculis quas aut incuria fudit, 
Aut humana parum cavit natura. 

Horace : De Arte Poetic d. 


rarest treasures of fancy; and moral majesty, relieved of its 
sternness by the tenderest affections of the heart, it must 
ever be matter of regret that John Milton is one of those 
whose intimacy they cannot enjoy through the familiar 
introduction of biography. We are, indeed, ushered by his- 
tory near enough to his presence to pay our homage ; but we 
can never be presented with that audience of his conver- 
sation, and those charming glimpses of his privacy, which 
have perpetuated the domestic life of so many inferior men, 
and which, especially in the case of the most eminent, but 
most unjust of his biographers, has brought us as well 
acquainted with Dr. Johnson as with our daily associates. 

The life of Milton may be divided into three epochs, the 
occupations of each of which were unfavourable to the 
interest of a pure biography. The first was spent in 
amassing those stores of learning which were to his vast 
intellect what machinery is to motive power. The second, 
after a brief but romantic interval of travel, was occupied 
with political and polemical controversy, and with public 
and official affairs; and the third was spent in a retirement 
rendered sacred alike by genius and sorrow, in which, 
from the aggregate resources of his knowledge, and the " 
chastened, yet undiminished, powers of his fancy, he pro- 
duced the great epic of the English language. Such a life 
can only be graduated by mental and literary landmarks. 
Its historical events were few ; and, had they been ever so 
numerous, or ever so prominent, they would have been lost 
in the splendour of his intellectual career. In such a life, 
the dates of works as lasting as language, take the place 
which, in other lives, is occupied by waning victories and 
dubious and perishable honours. 

The main purpose of these pages, however, is to circum- 
scribe the biography of Milton within a still narrower 
compass. In reproducing to the public the incidents of his 
life, our chief design will be to develop, and that mainly, 
in his own stately and impressive language, the principles 


and views which he maintained on ecclesiastical subjects. 
These, indeed, formed the staple of his intellectual history. 
A considerable portion of his prose writings is devoted to 
the maintenance of these principles ; while, even in those 
treatises which are purely political, we incessantly find the 
evidence, not only of his nonconformity to the episcopalian 
system in general, but especially of his deep-seated aversion 
to the alliance of any system of belief and worship with 
the more coarse, unspiritual, and heterogeneous powers of 
the state. 

It was the lot of Milton to flourish in an era of transition j 
and it is remarkable, though by no means unaccountable, 
that such times, throughout the history of the world, have 
produced the men who have most powerfully influenced the 
destinies of their own age and all succeeding generations. 
It was amidst the stormiest periods of Grecian history that 
we find those historians, orators, statesmen, and generals, 
who at once rescued their age and their memory from 
oblivion; and it was amidst the transitions of the Roman 
commonwealth and empire that those minds were nurtured, 
who, in all the highest pursuits allotted to man, illustrated 
"their age and their species together, and whose writings 
have nurtured the youth, and attracted the universal admi- 
ration of all succeeding times. Almost within our own 
recollection the overthrow of political and spiritual despotism 
in France was heralded and attended by minds such as that 
nation had not been wont to gaze at and applaud, nor the 
sounder portion of the civilized world to weigh and esti- 

Times, in many respects similar, witnessed the birth and 
history of John Milton. The revival of letters by the in- 
vention of the art of printing had previously communicated 
an unexampled impulse to the human mind. The papal 
religion had heretofore gathered its spoils and consolidated 
its empire amidst a darkness only broken by occasional rays 
of arty and occasional luminaries of learning. With what 


a cold obliqueness these fell upon the popular mind, let the 
history of the middle ages testify. In spite of the wild or 
affected fantasies of the day, it becomes thinking men to 
designate these as the dark ages. That their institutions 
preserved to us the treasures of ancient literature, is, indeed, 
true; but they preserved them in a coffer of which few 
ecclesiastics kept the keys, and fewer still used them, save 
for the purpose of drawing forth and perpetuating mo- 
nastic rubbish. 

This darkness, and the delusions which it harboured, had 
in this country been partly dispelled by the Reformation. 
I say partially; for few readers need be told that in 
England the principles of the Reformation were but im- 
perfectly carried out. Commenced under a monarch who 
was one of the basest and most unprincipled of mankind, it 
was carried on by two parties of whom it is difficult to say 
which was the more unfavourable to the interests of religion 
and freedom — the one being solely interested in obtaining 
the largest measure of secular spoil, and the other in 
securing the greatest number of the people to aggrandize 
the power and state of a new but homogeneous hierarchy. 
The Reformation was a compromise between these parties, 
and those who desired to restore to the church its primitive 
purity and simplicity of faith and worship ; but the con- 
struction of the scheme indicates far more of Jesuitical 
subtlety than of the Christian manliness of the great 
reformers. The scheme of the Anglican church propitiated 
the Protestants by presenting the Scriptures, and adopting 
various formularies of public worship, in the vernacular 
language ; by abjuring the infallibility of the pope, the 
adoration of the Virgin, the invocation of saints and angels, 
the sacrifice of the mass, and the doctrine of meritorious 
works. But its authors retained and re-established so much 
of the essence of popery as well-nigh nullified the abjura- 
tions. Admitting a priesthood and an altar, they implied a 
sacrifice; they invested that priesthood with imaginary gifts 


ding by direct transmission from the apostles, and 
;h this figment found their way to the doctrine of 
lental efficacy. If they denied the infallibility of the 
they transferred it to the church,* and added to it the 
lore baneful dogma of the ecclesiastical supremacy of 
onarch. While they abjured the mass they so stated 
2trine of the Eucharist, as to admit of its being wrested 
commonly done in the present day) to the notion 
perpetual oblation. Their Prayer-book was little else 
n English translation of the Romish liturgy and offices, 
ag men to invoke and commemorate the saints to whom 
Lad ceased to pray, and to continue the vain repetitions 
ill vainer material observances which popery had ever 
nited for the " reasonable service " of the human mind. 

observation of Lord Russell, with regard to the 
e of Henry VIII., requires but little modification to 
it applicable to every subsequent period : — "The reli- 
stablished by Henry," he remarks, " was so far from 
the reformed church of Luther, or of Calvin, that he 
. himself in maintaining the Roman Catholic faith, 
Lie had shaken off the supremacy of the pope. His 
noes, indeed, vibrated for a short time between the 
d the new religion, as he listened more to Cranmer or 
•diner ; but the law of the six articles, which contains 
eed he finally imposed on his people, maintains and 
ns all the leading articles of the Roman belief." 
light be supposed that a church embodying, though in 
ted form, the tenets of the popish religion, but without 
estige of its authority or antiquity, usurping the gor- 
edifices of the Catholic church, but for a worship 

was shorn of the splendour which corresponded to 
contained within itself the seeds of rapid dissolution, 
loubtless, its destruction would have been speedy and 
ete had not its authors moored it safely to the state, 

tide XX: " The Church hath power to decree rites and cere* 
, and authority in controversies of faith." 


so that its abolition might involve the perils of a political 
revolution. This arrangement not only contributed to the 
solidity of the ecclesiastical despotism, but supplied it with 
an ample armoury for the subjugation and punishment of all 
dissentients. It was at the period when Archbishop Land 
and his associates, armed with these terrible powers, and 
" breathing threatenings and slaughter," were devastating 
the Christian church in this country, that John Milton 
was raised up by the providence of God to defend and reviye 
u expiring liberty." 



John Milton was born at his father's house, in Bread 
Street, Cheapside, on the 9th of December, 1608. His fa- 
ther appears, in some respects, to have been worthy to have 
his name perpetuated by such a son; for, while prosecuting 
his studies at the University of Oxford, he became convinced 
of the anti-christian character of the popish religion, and 
embraced the protestant faith at the sacrifice of his paternal 
inheritance and his immediate prospects. Having abruptly 
quitted the University upon this change of his fortunes, he 
commenced practice in London as a scrivener; and, while 
procuring the means of giving a high education to his son, 
he found leisure for the pursuit of various studies, and espe- 
cially that of music, in which he seems to have attained 
considerable excellence. This accomplishment his son rated 
so highly, that he associated it with his own poetic genius 
and fame, in a Latin poem, subsequently addressed to his 
father, distinguished as much for its filial piety as for that 
classic latinity in which Milton has but few rivals in modern 
times. The passage referred to has been thus translate 


Nor you affect to scorn the Aonian quire, 

Bless'd by their smiles and glowing with their fire. 

You ! who by them inspired, with art profound, 

Can wield the magic of proportion'd sound : 

Through thousand tones can teach the voice to stray, 

And wind to harmony its mazy way, — 

Arion's tuneful heir : — then wonder not 

A poet-child should be by you begot. 

My kindred blood is warm with kindred flame, 

And the son treads his father's track to fame. 

Phoebus controls us with a common sway ; 

To you commends his lyre, — to me his lay: 

Whole in each bosom makes his just abode, 

With child and sire the same, though varied god. 

In answer to some malignant insinuations thrown out in 
after life by a political adversary, Milton, in his second 
defence to the people of England, presents with equal 
brevity and modesty a view of his early history. In this we 
find the following reference to his boyhood: "My father 
destined me from a child to the pursuits of literature ; and 
my appetite for knowledge was so voracious, that, from 
twelve years of age, I hardly ever left my studies or went 
to bed before midnight. This primarily led to my loss of 
sight. My eyes were naturally weak, and I was subject to 
frequent head-aches, which, however, could not chill the 
ardour of my curiosity, or retard the progress of my improve- 
ment. My father had me daily instructed in the Grammar- 
school, and by other masters at home." Aubrey, also, in his 
MS. Life of Milton, preserved in the Ashmolean Museum at 
Oxford, relates that, "when Milton went to schoole, and 
when he was very younge, he studied very hard, and sate up 
. very late, commonly till twelve or one o'clock ; and his father 
ordered the maid to sitt up for him. ,, At the age of fifteen, 
that is, in the year 1623, Milton was admitted to St. Paul's 
School, and in the same year produced the first poems which 
have cpme down to our time ; although, from the authority 
before quoted, we learn that he was a poet at ten years old, at 
which age his first portrait was executed by Cornelius Jansen. 


To those who are interested in tracing in "the child the 
father of the man/' it will be delightful to examine these 
early productions; just as "the little rill near the source 
of one of the great American rivers is an interesting object 
to the traveller who is apprised, as he steps across it, or 
walks a few miles along its banks, that this is the stream 
which runs so far, and which gradually swells into so vast 
a flood."* The poems referred to are versions of the 114th 
and 136th Psalms. The former of these is inserted as being 
the shorter, and, perhaps, the more characteristic. Milton 
afterward translated it into Greek verse. 


When the blest seed of Terah's faithful son 

After long toil their liberty had won ; 

And pass'd from Pharian fields to Canaan land, 

Led by the strength of the Almighty's hand; 

Jehovah's wonders were in Israel shown, 

His praise and glory was in Israel known. 

That saw the troubled sea, and shivering fled, 

And sought to hide his froth-becurled head 

Low in the earth ; Jordan's clear streams recoil, 

As a faint host that hath received the foil. 

The high, huge-bellied mountains skip, like rams 

Amongst their ewes : the little hills, like lambs. 

Why fled the ocean ? And why skipt the mountains? 

Why turned Jordan toward his crystal fountains ? 

Shake, earth ; and at the presence be aghast 

Of Him that ever was, and aye shall last; 

That glassy floods from rugged rocks can crush, 

And make soft rills from fiery flint-stones gush ! 

In his seventeenth year he commenced his University 
career at Christ College, Cambridge. For this he was pre- 
pared by an extensive acquaintance with classical literature, 
and a knowledge of several modern languages acquired at St. 
Paul's School. But it was to the poets that he devoted his 
chief attention, and for the appreciation of them he modestly 
lays claim but to one, and that a very subordinate qualifica- 
tion, — an exquisite nicety of ear. It was in this the first 
• Foster's Essay on a Man's writing Memoirs of himself. 


year of his college life that he wrote his elegy " On the death 
of a Fair Infant," which is too long for insertion, bat which 
indicates a great advance upon his earlier productions in 
maturity of mind and in facility of management. It cannot 
he said of Milton that he ever set any author before him as 
a model. It is, however, evident that Ovid was the reigning 
favourite of the youthful poet, and, even amidst the multi- 
farious learning which, as if by a necessity he could not 
control, crowded the productions of his after life, it is easy 
to trace the frequent reminiscences of his first love. 

At college he was particularly admired for his academical 
exercises, both in Latin and English verse. The former 
language he wrote through life with as much ease and 
force as if it had heen his vernacular tongue. In his prose 
writings, indeed, he never affected a pedantic conformity 
to the classic models, though in Latin verse his resemblance 
to them was at once so close and so natural, that Mr. 
Macaulay justly applies to him a tasteful criticism on 
Cowley, that " he wore the garb hut not the clothes of the 

In the year 1627 he produced a "vacation exercise in 
the College," of which Todd remarks that, written at the age 
of nineteen, it has heen repeatedly and justly noticed as 
containing indications of the future hard, "whose genius 
was equal to a subject that carried him beyond the limits of 
the world." In the following lines the reader will discern 
the twilight that heralded the undeclining day of Comus, 

11 Penseroso, and the Paradise Lost. Addressing the per- 
sonification of the English language, he writes: — 

Yet I had rather, if I were to chuse, 

Thy service in some graver subject use, 

Such as may make thee search thy coffers round, 

Before thou clothe my fancy in fit sound: 

Such where the deep transported mind may soar 

Above the wheeling poles, and at heaven's door 

Look in, and see each blissful deity; 

How he before the thunderous throne doth lie, 


Listening to what unshorn Apollo sings 

To the touch of golden wires, while Hebe brings 

Immortal nectar to her kingly sire : 

Then passing through the spheres of watchful fire, 

And misty regions of wide air next under, 

And hills of snow, and lofts of piled thunder, 

May tell at length how green-eyed Neptune raves, 

In heaven's defiance mastering all his waves ; 

Then sing of secret things that came to pass 

When beldam Nature in her cradle was; 

And last of kings, and queens, and heroes old, 

Such as the wise Demodocus once told 

In solemn songs at King Alcinous' feast, 

While sad Ulysses' soul, and all the rest, 

Are held, with his melodious harmony, 

In willing chains and sweet captivity. 

Two years afterwards he produced his "Ode on the 
Morning of Christ's Nativity." A hypercritical analysis 
has detected some fancied faults in this exquisite poem. 
But if the writers referred to had recollected the age in 
which (not to say at which) it was written, or the canon 
of candour which a great poetical critic* of antiquity 
left for the guidance of his successors, they might, perhaps, 
have spared their ingenuity. It hears a stamp of premature, 
but conscious, majesty in every verse; while in the very 
music of such stanzas as the following, there reigns a spirit 
of silence which is charmingly appropriate, and irresistibly 
impressive : — 

No war, or battle's sound, 

Was heard the world around : 
The idle spear and shield were high uphung ; 

The hooked chariot stood 

Unstain'd with hostile blood; 
The trumpet spake not to the armed throng ; 

And kings sat still with awful eye, 

As if they surely knew their sov'ran Lord was by. 

* Verum ubi plura nitent in carmine, non ego paucis 
OfFendar maculis quas aut incuria fudit, 
Aut humana parum cavit natura. 

Horace : De Arte Poetic A. 


But peaceful was the night, 

Wherein the Prince of Light 
His reign of peace upon the earth began: 

The winds, with wonder whist, 

Smoothly the waters kist, 
Whispering new joys to the wild ocean, 

Who now hath quite forgot to rave, 

While birds of calm sit brooding on the charmed wave. 

The stars, with deep amaze, 
Stand fix'd in steadfast gaze. 
Bending one way their precious influence ; 
* * * * ^ 

The oracles are dumb ; 

No voice or hideous hum 
Buns through the arched roof in words deceiving. 

Apollo, from his shrine, 

Can no more divine, 
With hollow shriek the steep of Delphos leaving. 

No nightly trance, or breathed spell, 

Inspires the pale-eyed priest from the prophetick celL 

The lonely mountains o'er, 

And the resounding shore, 
A voice of weeping heard and loud lament ; 

From haunted spring and dale, 

Edged with poplar pale, 
The parting Genius is with sighing sent : 

With flower-inwoven tresses torn, 

The nymphs in twilight shade of tangled thickets mourn. 

In consecrated earth, 

And on the holy hearth, 
The Lars and Lemures moan with midnight plaint 

In urns and altars round, 

A drear and dying sound 
Affrights the flamens at their service quaint ; 

And the chill marble seems to sweat, 

While each peculiar power foregoes his wonted seat. 

out the same time he produced the verses written at a 
jmn Musick," which have been made far better known 
j present generation by the harmony of Handel than 
by the fame of their author. The student who desires 


to trace the mental history of Milton, will be interested by 
the evidences they show of the ripening of his poetic genius, 
and of that tendency of his mind to the sublimity of sacred 
subjects, to which we, doubtless, owe the Paradise Lost. 
This is chiefly evinced in the lines in which, speaking of 
Voice and Verse personified as sisters, he says, that they are 

Dead things with inbreathed sense able to pierce, 
And to our high raised phantasy present 
That undisturbed song of pure concent 
, Aye sung before the sapphire-coloured throne, 
To Him that sits thereon, 
With saintly shout and solemn jubilee : 
Where the bright Seraphim, in burning row, 
Their loud uplifted angel-trumpets blow ; 
And the cherubic host in thousand quires 
Touch their immortal harps of golden wires. 

In this passage, as Dr. Symmons observes, we acknow- 
ledge some touches prelusive to the Paradise Lost. 

The prose compositions which have descended to us, pro- 
duced in the retirement of Milton's college life, are chiefly 
academical exercises; and five letters, four of which are 
addressed in Latin to the tutors of his earlier youth, and 
one in English, the manuscript of which is still preserved in 
the library of Trinity College, Cambridge, written to a 
friend who had exhorted him to quit the pursuits of litera- 
ture for the more active occupations of life. Some passages 
in the latter require to be reproduced here as beautiful indi- 
cations of the singular loftiness of his sentiments. After 
designating that time of his life which was " as yet obscure 
and unserviceable to mankind," and declaring of his present 
studies that they were " according to the precept of my 
conscience, which I firmly trust is not without God," he 
proceeds thus: "If you think, as you said, that too much 
learning is in fault, and that I have given up myself to 
dream away my years in the arms of studious retirement, 
like Endymion with the Moon, as the tale of Latmus goes ; 
yet consider, that if it were no more but the mere love of 


learning, whether it proceeds from a principle bad, good, * 
natural, it could not have held out thus long against » ! 
strong opposition on the other side of every kind. For if 
it be bad, why should not all the fond hopes that forward 
youth and vanity are fledged with, together with gain, 
pride, and ambition, call me forward more powerfully 
than a poor, regardless, and unprofitable sin of curiosity 
should be able to withhold me, whereby a man cuts himself 
off from all action, and becomes the most helpless, pusil- 
lanimous, and unweaponed creature in the world ; the most 
unfit and unable to do that which all mortals most aspire 
to, either to be useful to his friends, or to offend his 
enemies. Or if it be to be thought a natural proneness, 
there is against that a much more potent inclination inbred, 
which about this time of a man's life solicits most, the 
desire of house and family of his own, to which nothing is 
esteemed more helpful than the early entering into cre- 
ditable employment, and nothing hindering than his affected 
solitariness. And though this were enough, yet there is to 
this another act, if not of pure, yet of refined nature, no 
less available to dissuade prolonged obscurity, a desire of 
honour, and repute, and immortal fame, seated in the breast 
of every true scholar, which all make haste to by the 
readiest ways of publishing and divulging conceived merits, 
as well those that shall as those that never shall obtain it 
Nature, therefore, would presently work the more prevalent 
way, if there were nothing but this inferior bent of herself 
to restrain her. Lastly, the love of learning, as it is the 
pursuit of something good, it would sooner follow the more 
excellent and supreme good known and presented, and so 
be quickly diverted from the empty and fantastic chase of 
shadows and notions to the solid good flowing from due and 
timely obedience to that command in the gospel set out by 
the terrible seizing of him that hid the talent. It is more 
probable, therefore, that not the endless delight of specula- 
tion, but this very consideration of that great command- 


ment, does not press forward, as soon as many do, to undergo, 
but keeps off with a sacred reverence and religious advisement 
^ how best to undergo j not taking thought of being late, so 
b it give advantage to be more fit? for those that were latest 
& lost nothing when the master of the vineyard came to give 
ft each one his hire." 

-~z This letter is enriched with one of Milton's early sonnets, 
i which, in common with the foregoing passage, exhibits that 
.; combination of modesty and earnestness of purpose, which 
t: is the invariable accompaniment of true greatness. It is as 
i follows : — 

How soon has Time, the subtle thief of youth, 
, Stolen on his wing my three and twentieth year ! 

My hasting days fly on with full career ; 

But my late Spring no bud or blossom shew'th. 
Perhaps my semblance might deceive the truth, 
That I to manhood am arrived so near ; 
And inward ripeness doth much less appear 
That some more timely — happy spirits indu'th. » 
Yet be it less or more or soon or slow, 

It shall be still in strictest measure even 
To that same lot, however mean or high, 
Towards which time leads me and the will of Heaven. 
All is, if I have grace to use it so, 
As ever in my great Task-master's eye. 

In the beginning of the year 1629, Milton took his 
bachelor's degree, and, in due course, proceeded to that 
of master of arts, when he finally quitted the university. 
The bitter enemies whom his subsequent career arrayed 
against him, have attempted to derive from this, the ob- 
scurest period of his life, the means of casting a reflection 
upon his spotless fame. Much time and labour have been 
unnecessarily wasted in rebutting these calumnies. I will 
endeavour to dispose of them with greater brevity. The 
story of his having been subjected to corporal chastisement 
at his college, though argued with ridiculous ingenuity by 
several of his biographers, and treated with equally ridiculous 
solemnity by Dr. Johnson, does not deserve the notice of any 


writer who is not enthralled by a party purpose, and em 
mitted to a " foregone conclusion." Even were it poenble to 
suppose that the incident occurred, the foregoing notica 
sufficiently attest that it must have been undeserved; and 
the censure must therefore be transferred from the conduct 
of Milton to the semi-catholic regulations of the university, 
and the incapacity and caprice of its administrators. But, 
apart from this, the statement itself rests on no evidence 
that is deserving of a moment's consideration. The ca- 
lumniators of Milton chiefly rely upon a line in one of his 
Latin epistles to his friend, Charles Deodati, which cannot 
be tortured by any ingenuity to such an interpretation.* 
In addition to this, it is notorious that the statutes of the 
university prohibited the infliction of any such punishment 
upon a student of Milton's age. 

It has been farther argued, that the distaste which Milton 
repeatedly indicated to Cambridge, both as a locality un- 
favourable to the inspirations of poetry, to which, as we 
have seen, he was passionately devoted, and also as arising 
from the manners and habits of the university, goes to 
prove his unpopularity at his college ; and one opponent 
has even been so unscrupulous as to intimate that he was 
sent away from the university for a time, in consequence of 
his immorality. It is scarcely necessary to refute a calumny 
the falsehood of which is so obvious. With respect to the 
torpifying influence of the local scenery, the testimony of 
the poet Gray may be added to that of every man of 
ordinary taste who has been compelled to traverse the 
wearisome flats of Cambridgeshire, f As to the more serious 

minas perferre magistri, 

Cseteraque ingenio non subeunda meo. 
+ Some of my readers will be reminded of the incurable disgust 
with which the vicinity of Cambridge affected the late Robert HalL 
He once described it in conversation as " Nature laid out ;" and when 
alluding to the scarcity of wood in the neighbourhood, and having 
been reminded of the willows which abound there, characteristically 
replied, " Yes, Sir, Nature holding out signals of distress ! " 


portion of the charge, we may safely cite the defensive state- 
ments of Milton himself; written at a time when, if false, they 
were open to a disgraceful refutation from a thousand quar- 
ters- In his Apology for Smectymnuus, which will hereafter 
be noticed in its proper place, the following declaration was 
extorted from him by the malice of his opponents : — " I must 
be thought, if this libeller (for now he shows himself to be 
so) can find belief, after an inordinate and riotous youth 
spent at the university, to have been at length vomited out 
thence. For which commodious lie, that he may be encou- 
raged in the trade another time, I thank him ; for it hath 
given me an apt occasion to acknowledge publickly, with all 
grateful mind, that more than ordinary favour and respect 
which I found above any of my equals at the hands of those 
courteous and learned men, the fellows of that college 
wherein I spent some years : who at my parting, after I had 
taken two degrees, as the manner is, signified many ways 
how much better it would content them that I would stay ; 
as by many letters full of kindness and loving respect, both 
before that time and long after, I was assured of their sin- 
gular good affection towards me. Which being likewise 
propense to all such as were for their studious and civil life 
worthy of esteem, I could not wrong their judgments and 
upright intentions, so much as to think I had that regard 
from them for other cause, than that I might be still encou- 
raged to proceed in the honest and laudable courses of 
which they apprehended I had given good proof, And to 
those ingenuous and friendly men, who were ever the 
countenancers of virtuous and hopeful wits, I wish the best 
and happiest things that friends in absence wish one to 
another." In his " Second Defense," published twelve years 
after the "Apology for Smectymnuus," he again asserts 
the purity of his college life ; and affirms, in opposition to 
his adversary's calumnies, that he passed seven years at the 
university, pure from every blemish, and in possession of 
the esteem of the good, till he took with applause his degree 


of Master of Arts : that he then retired to his father's ho*, 
and left behind him a memory which was cherished with affec- 
tion and respect by the greater part of the fellows of his college* 
who had always been assiduous in cultivating his regard. 

I have referred to the general conduct of the univo- 
sity at this time as offensive to Milton's moral tastes, li 
stating this dislike he specially observes upon the practice 
of acting plays, on the part of those who had entered, or 
were about to enter upon the duties of the Christian min- 
istry , — " writhing and unboning their clergy limbs to all 
the antick and dishonest gestures of Trincolos, buffoons, and 
bawds, prostituting the shame of that ministry which they 
had, or were near having, to the eyes of courtiers and coort 
ladies, their grooms and mademoiselles." This passage 
affords Dr. Johnson an opportunity of gratifying his 
splenetic prejudice in the treatise which, with much respect 
for that extraordinary man, I can only characterize as his 
infamous life of Milton. After noticing the pleasure which 
Milton states that he had enjoyed in early life from thea- 
trical entertainments, Dr. Johnson closes his remarks with 
the following sneer : " Plays were therefore only criminal 
when they were acted by academics." It is scarcely neces- 
sary to point out the disingenuous sophism into which 
Johnson's bigotry here betrayed him. It was not the cir- 
cumstance that the plays were acted by academics that 
offended Milton's sense of propriety, but that they were 
acted by men ostensibly devoted to the ministry of the 
gospel. If Dr. Johnson was unable to recognize this dis- 
tinction, he is to be pitied j but it is hard to conceive that 
such language should have been written by a man who 
thoroughly appreciated the licentiousness of the stage in the 
time of the Stuarts, and who in a later and a purer day, was 
withheld confessedly by moral considerations from meeting 
Jiis friend Garrick in the green-room. 

That Milton quitted the university without gaining a fel- 
lowship, or taking orders, is also the subject of Dr. Johnson's 


animadversion. "He went to the university," says the 
Doctor, " with a design of entering into the Church, hut in 
tune altered his mind." The more correct statement would 
be, that his father desired that the great intellectual powers, 
of which he gave early promise, should he thus devoted; and 
it is easy to conceive that the deep religious sentiments of 
the youth were favourable to this design. But whatever 
may have been his tendencies at the early age at which he 
entered the university, more mature reflection induced him 
to abandon all intention of becoming a clergyman. For this 
he gives us his own motives in his Treatise entitled " The 
Reason of Church Government urged against Prelacy," in 
the following words :— " The Church, to whose service, by 
the intentions of my parents and Mends I was destined of a 
child, and in mine own resolutions ; till coming to some ma- 
turity of years', and perceiving what tyranny had invaded 
the Church, that he who would take orders must subscribe 
slave, and take an oath withal, which, unless he took with a 
conscience that would retch, he must either straight perjure 
or split his faith ; I thought it better to prefer a blameless 
silence before the sacred office of speaking, bought and begun 
with servitude and forswearing." 

It is recorded of Dr. Johnson, that when asked by a lady 
who was better instructed in such matters, why he had in 
his Dictionary given, as the meaning of the word " pastern," 
" the knee of a horse," he proudly replied, " Ignorance, 
madam, sheer ignorance." This confession the learned lexi- 
cographer could well afford. But it is surprising he should 
have perilled so great a reputation by publishing the follow- 
ing remarks on this statement of Milton : — " These expres- 
sions are, I find, applied to the subscription of the Articles; 
but it seems more probable that they relate to canonical 
obedience. I know not any of the Articles which seem 
to thwart his opinions; but the thoughts of obedience, 
whether canonical or civil, raised his indignation." 

It is obviously unnecessary to have recourse to the suppo- 


mtion that it was only the canons of the Church of Engine* I 
that he refused to subscribe. It is altogether tmsuppoaUe 
that such a mind should have voluntarily subjected itself to 
such a yoke. It is sufficiently remarkable that Dr. Johnaa 
should have seen nothing in the Articles which could ttarat 
the maturer judgment of Milton. The 20th, to which m 
have already adverted, by its denial of the right of private 
judgment would be sufficient to vitiate the entire code m I 
the view of such a mind as Milton's. It is equally surpris- 
ing that Dr. Johnson should have forgotten the 37th, on 
the powers of civil magistrates, which not only asserts the 
ecclesiastical supremacy of the reigning monarch, but, in im- 
mediate connection with this, declares his right to punish 
" with the civil sword the stubborn and evil doers, " this 
sanctioning the infliction of pains and penalties for reli- 
gious faith and practice ; a principle which the lofty and 
generous nature of Milton held in utter detestation. As 
little justice is there in the remark which follows— that 
" the thought of obedience, whether canonical or civil, raised 
his indignation." So far from this, he pays throughout his 
writings, as he did throughout his life, a devout reverence 
to the authority of law both human and Divine. But hia 
was a dignified submission. He could discern the distinc- 
tion between rational obedience and the prostration of the 
whole nature before a tyranny which strove to lord it alike 
over the body and the soul. Indeed, an unworthy and dis- 
ingenuous spirit pervades this performance; and he who 
would maintain a high opinion of Dr. Johnson's integrity 
and candour, will do well to avoid his Life of Milton. 



arcades— l'allegro — n, PENSEEOSO — DEATH op his mother — 


On leaving the university, in 1629, he spent five years* 
probably the happiest of his life, at Horton, in Buckingham- 
shire, whither his father had retired from business with a 
competent fortune. In his " Second Defence of the People of 
England," having been led, as before observed, by the slanders 
of his antagonist to a brief recapitulation of the events of 
his early life, he thus refers to this period of his history : — 
" Here (at Cambridge) I passed seven years in the usual 
course of instruction and study, with the approbation of the 
good, and without any stain upon my character, till I took 
the degree of Master of Arts. After this I did not, as this 
miscreant feigns, run away into Italy, but of my own accord 
retired to my father's house, whither I was accompanied by 
the regrets of most of the fellows of the college, who showed 
me no common marks of friendship and esteem. On my 
father's estate, where he had determined to pass the re- 
mainder of his days, I enjoyed an interval of uninterrupted 
leisure, which I entirely devoted to the perusal of the Greek 
and Latin classics ; though I occasionally visited the metro- 

The I 



polis, either for the sake of purchasing books, or of learaiig 
something new in mathematics or in music, in which I, it 
that time, found a source of pleasure and amusement h 
this manner I spent five years, till my mother's death." 

It is not at all surprising that Milton should have omittel 
from this narrative the fact that during this interval tin 
most admired of his minor poems were composed. 
Comus, which critics unite in designating as the most exqui- 
site dramatic poem which perhaps the genius of man has 
ever produced, was composed in 1634, when its author was 
but twenty-five years of age. Lycidas was written in 1637; 
and there is every reason to believe that the Arcades, 
1/ Allegro, and II Penseroso were also composed during Mil- 
ton's residence at Horton. 

The poem of Comus is too well known to require descrip- 
tion, and certainly nothing need be added to the eulogies 
with which it has been loaded by the choicest minds of 
every succeeding generation. The plot of the masque of 
Comus is said to have been suggested by the circum- 
stance of Lady Alice Egerton, the youthful daughter of 
the Earl of Bridgwater, having when travelling been acci- 
dentally separated from her companions in the night, and 
having wandered for some time in a forest by herself. It is 
not often that Dr. Johnson exposes himself to the shafts of 
ridicule. There is, indeed, too much of him to be the fit 
object of such light missiles ; yet, what other treatment is 
merited by such an observation as the following in reference 
to a master-piece of genius, such as the Comus ? — " It was 
presented at Ludlow, then the residence of the Lord Presi- 
dent of "Wales, in 1634, and had the honour of being acted 
by the Earl of Bridgwater's sons and daughters," all of 
whom the reader should be informed, by the way, were un- 
der fourteen years of age. That Johnson, in presence of the 
majesty of Milton, should exhibit this " falling-down-dead- 
ness of manner" before the little boys and girls of an earl, is 
certainly contemptible enough. Of the poem itself it is 


impossible to speak in terms of too high admiration. The 
eulogy pronounced upon it by Dr. Symmons, is at once en- 
thusiastic and discriminate: "Among the compositions of our 
own country," he says, " it certainly stands unrivalled for its 
affluence in poetic imagery and diction ; and, as an effort of 
the creative power, it can be paralleled only by the muse of 
Shakspeare, by whom in this respect it is possibly exceeded. 
With Shakspeare the whole, excepting some rude outlines 
or suggestions of the story, is the immediate emanation of 
his own mind ; but Milton's erudition precluded him from 
this extreme originality, and was perpetually supplying him 
with thoughts, which would sometimes obtain the prefer- 
ence from his judgment, and would sometimes be mistaken 
for his own property by his invention. Original, however, 
he is ; and, of all the sons of song, inferior in this requisite 
of genius to Shakspeare alone." 

In the only criticism of a particular passage upon which 
Dr. S. ventures, he is by no means so felicitous. He selects 
one of the most charming passages in ihe drama — that in 
which Comus describes the lady singing the echo song :— 

How sweetly did they float upon the wings 
Of silence through the empty-vaulted night, 
At every fall smoothing the raven down 
Of darkness till it smiled. 

After justifying the preceding images he adds, " But it is 
surely a transgression, which stands in need of pardon, when 
proceeding a step further and accumulating personifications, 
we invest this raven-down with life and make it to smile." 
It is surprising that a man of the taste and perception of Dr. 
Symmons should have fallen into such an error. The appli- 
cation of the term to smile to the down of the imaginary 
bird, smoothed by the cadences of the music, involves no 
additional personification. Innumerable instances might 
be adduced from the highest ancient and modern poets, in 
which, without personification, and with a strict similarity 
of meaning, the surface of the sea is said to smile or to 


frown under the sunshine or the passing shadows cf 

It is indeed a dangerous exercise to criticise this w ^fr ftlf 
production ; it stands conspicuous among the brightest in- 
ductions of human genius, by a refined and exquisite purity 
of sentiment which, even in a strictly imaginative range d 
thought, may be designated as intense spirituality ; and tk 
union of this ethereal spirit with the very genius of to 
mony completes the enchantment of the poem. The n- 
mote and heterogenous reading indicated by its ftlHi««a 
still further increases the wonder with which, we peruse it 
It has ever been matter of amazement that the Comus conW 
have been produced by any one at the age of twenty-five; 
this, however, is not the only fact that proves the strange 
precocity of Milton's mind. It is scarcely more surprising 
that this drama should have been produced at that age than 
that one of the finest of his Latin poems should have been 
written at the age of nineteen. I refer to an Academic ex- 
ercise composed to oblige one of the fellows of his college, 
and entitled Naturam non pati senium, its purpose being to 
reply to those who held the notion that the world was liable 
to the decays of old age. Several of Milton's biographers 
mention that this subject was probably suggested by a work 
published in the preceding year under the title of " An Apo- 
logie or Declaration of the Power and Providence of God in 
the Government of the World, by George Hakewill, D.D., 
and Archdeacon of Surrey, 1627."* * 

Of the former production, Mr. Macaulay, in his brilliant 
article on Milton, first published in the Edinburgh Review, 
remarks, that "Comus is framed on the model of the Italian 
masque, as the Samson is formed on the model of the Greek 
tragedy. It is certainly the noblest performance of the kind 
which exists in any language." 

* Similar views were maintained some years afterwards by Dr. 
South, a bitter enemy of Milton, in a Sermon from Eccl. vii. 10 — "Say 
not thou, what is the cause that the former days were better than these ?" 


The Lycidas has been the subject of a contest so fierce as 
to leave it difficult to conceive that either party is altogether 
in the right. " In this poem," says Johnson, " there is no 
nature, for there is no truth:, there is no art, for there is 
nothing new. Its form is that of a pastoral, easy, vulgar, 
and therefore disgusting: whatever images it can supply, 
are long ago exhausted; and its inherent improbability 
always forces dissatisfaction on the mind." .... " Nothing 
can less display knowledge, or less exercise invention, than 
to tell how a shepherd has lost his companion, &c." Nay, 
he even goes so far as to say, " Surely no man could have 
fancied that he read Lycidas with pleasure, had he not known 
its author." Sir Egerton Brydges, on the contrary, main- 
tains that " so far from deserving the character applied to it 
by Johnson, the language is throughout imaginative and 
picturesque, and the rhythm harmonious and enchanting. 
There is no poem in which the epithets are more beautiful, 
more appropriate, or more fresh ; they are like the diction 
of no predecessor, but of some of the occasional passages of 
rural description by Shakspere in his happiest moods. But 
it will be asked what invention there is in this poem ? There 
is invention in the epithets, in the combinations, in the de- 
scriptions, in the apostrophes, in the visionary parts of the 
poem, in the sorrows, the predictions, and the consolations : 
in all those associations which none but a rich and poetical 
mind produces." Dr. Warton goes still further, and insists 
that the admiration or dislike of this poem is an infallible 
test whether a reader has or has not a poetical taste : . . . . 
that he who is not enraptured with it can have no genuine 
idea of poetry. 

The truth probably lies in a medium between the splenetic 
prejudice of Johnson and the enthusiasm of his more partial 
biographers. That there is a rhapsodical wildness about the 
Lycidas, few will deny; and it must be further admitted that 
it is rendered less intelligible to many by the affluence of 
classical allusion with which it is perhaps overloaded. In- 


deed the embarras de richesaes was the necessary condition 
of such a mind as Milton's. With so vast a repository of 
knowledge, and with a faculty of association so importu- 
nately lively, his great difficulty must have been to ingT^ fo 
his thoughts from a throng of classical or extraneous associ- 
ations, to discern an indorsement on many which otherwise 
he would mistake for his own, and to eliminate those refer- 
ences which, however familiar to his own mind, would be lost 
upon the multitude of his less privileged readers. In spite, 
however, of this splendid defect, it is difficult to imagine how 
Dr. Johnson could have read such passages as the following, 
and then attribute the admiration of Lycidas to the blinded 
partiality of the reader: — 

Weep no more, woful shepherds, weep no more ; 

For Lycidas your sorrow is not dead, 

Sunk though he be beneath the watery floor : 

So sinks the day-star in the ocean bed : 

And yet anon repairs his drooping head, 

And tricks his beams, and with new-spangled ore 

Flames in the forehead of the morning sky : 

So Lycidas sunk low, but mounted high, 

Through the dear might of Him that walk'd the waves; 

Where other groves, and other streams along, 

With nectar pure his oozy locks he laves, 

And hears the anexpressive nuptial song, 

In the blest kingdoms meek of joy and love. 

There entertain him all the saints above, 

In solemn troops, and sweet societies, 

That sing, and singing, in their glory move, 

And wipe the tears for ever from his eyes. 

It is remarkable that the Comus came out without a name, 
and that of Lycidas, which was written at the request of his 
college, as a monody upon one of its fellows, who was 
wrecked and drowned in the Irish Sea, the authorship 
was only indicated by the initials J. M. 

Passing by the masque entitled Arcades, which is said to 
have been presented at Harefield, before Alice, Countess 

i/allegbo and il penseroso. 27 

Dowager of Derby, and acted by her own grandchildren, 
we next have to notice the poems entitled I/Allegro, and 
II Penseroso, which are generally supposed to have been 
written about the same time ; that is, during Milton's resi- 
dence at Horton. The genial charm of these two poems 
appeared to have thawed for a moment the icy prejudice of 
Johnson himself. He pronounced them two noble efforts of 
imagination ; and observes, with great discrimination, " The 
author's design is not what Theobald has remarked, merely 
to show how objects derive their colours from the mind, by 
representing the operation of the same things upon the gay 
and melancholy temper, or upon the same man as he is 
differently disposed ; but rather, how among the successive 
variety of appearances every disposition of mind takes hold 
on those by which it may be gratified. 

"The cheerful man hears the lark in the morning; the 
pensive man hears the nightingale in the evening. The cheer- 
ful man sees the cock strut, and hears the horn and hounds 
echo in the woods ; then walks ' not unseen 9 to observe the 
glory of the rising sun, or listen to the singing milk-maid, 
and view the labours of the ploughman, and the mower; 
then casts his eyes about him over scenes of smiling plenty; 
and looks up to the distant tower, the residence of some fair 
inhabitant ; thus he pursues rural gaiety, through a day of 
Labour, or of play, and delights himself at night with the 
fanciful narratives of superstitious ignorance. 

" The pensive man at one time walks unseen, to muse at 
midnight ; and at another, hears the sullen curfew. If the 
weather drives him home, he sits in a room lighted only by 
flowing embers ; or by a lonely lamp outwatches the north 
rtar, to discover the habitation of separate souls, and varies 
the shades of meditation by contemplating the magnificent 
ir pathetic scenes of tragic and epic poetry. When the 
morning comes, a morning gloomy with rain and wind, he 
(Talks into the dark trackless woods, fells asleep by some 
murmuring water, and with melancholy enthusiasm expects 


some dream of prognostication, or some music played ty 
aerial performer**." 

All genuine poets unconsciously portray themselves; wd 
it can scarcely be doubted, that in these exquisite define* 
tions of temperament and feeling, Milton is representing 
the impressions which his own mind, in two actual bit 
opposite phases, received from the external causes he depute. 
They contain an unbroken succession of the most gracefid 
images which nature and art can supply; and over tke 
whole is shed a tone of delicacy and tenderness which invests 
the most ordinary scenes with the charm of romance. Any 
comparison of the beauties of these poems would be alilrft diffi- 
cult and unsatisfactory. Probably II Penseroso was the 
more natural emanation of the author's habitual sentiment, 
and, if he ever compared them, the object of his preference.* 

On the 3rd of April. 1637, Milton was called to mourn 
the loss of his mother, who died at Horton, and was buried 
in the village church j and shortly after this event, he re- 
solved on a plan of continental travel, with a special design 
to a sojourn in Italy and Greece. At a date intervening 
between his family affliction and his departure from England, 
(Sept 23, 1637,) we find a letter addressed by him to hu 
college friend, Deodati, which requires a passing reference, 
as containing the first disclosure which remains to us of the 
aspiration to an immortality of fame which Milton so early 
and so prophetically entertained. The letter is in Latin* 
and the passage referred to is to the following effect.*— 
" But you are now anxious, as I know, to have your 
curiosity gratified. You solicitously inquire even about my 
thoughts. Attend, then, Deodati ! but let me spare myself a 
blush by speaking in your ear ; and for a moment, let me talk 

* In Lord Teignmouth's Life of Sir William Jones, we find, in t 
letter from the latter, written on the spot, some very pleasing pages 
in which he endeavours, with much plausibility, to show that theae 
poems must have been written at Horton, by pointing out, in the 
scenery of that neighbourhood, almost every natural image and object 
which the poet describes. 



proudly to yon. Do you ask me what is in my thought ? 
So may God prosper me, as it is nothing less than immor- 
tality. But how shall I accomplish it? My wings are 
sprouting, and I meditate to fly ; but while my Pegasus yet 
lifts himself on very tender pinions, let me be prudent and 

On the eve of his departure, he received a most flattering 
letter from Sir Henry Wootton, by means of which he was 
brought into association with Lord Scudamore, the English 
Ambassador at Paris ; by whom he was, in that capital, in- 
troduced to the celebrated Grotius, and from whom he 
received letters of introduction, which proved of essential 
service to him in Italy. In the brief recapitulation of his 
own history, which he introduces perforce into his Second 
Defence of the People of England, and to which I have 
already referred, he thus cursorily sketches the events of 
this part of his history :~ 

" On my departure, the celebrated Henry Wootton, who 
had long been King James's Ambassador at Venice, gave 
me a signal proof of his regard, in an elegant letter which 
he wrote, breathing not only the warmest friendship, but 
containing some maxims of conduct which I found very 
useful in my travels. The noble Thomas Scudamore, King 
Charles's ambassador, to whom I carried letters of recom- 
mendation, received me most courteously at Paris. His 
lordship gave me a card of introduction to the learned Hugo 
Grotius, at that time Ambassador from the Queen of Sweden 
to the French court ; whose acquaintance I anxiously de- 
sired, and to whose house I was accompanied by some of his 
lordship's friends. A few days after, when I set out for 
Italy, he gave me letters to the English merchants on my 
route, that they might show me any civilities in their 
power. Taking ship at Nice, I arrived at Genoa, and after- 
wards visited Leghorn, Pisa, and Florence. In the latter 
city, which I have always more particularly esteemed for 
the elegance of its dialect, its genius, and its taste, I stopped 


about two months; when I contracted an intimacy iritk 
many persons of rank and learning, and was a constat 
attendant at their literary parties ; a practice which prefab 
there, and tends so much to the diffusion of knowledge, ad 
the preservation of friendship. No time will ever aboHA 
the agreeable recollections which I cherish of Jacob Gaddi, 
Carlo Dati, Frescobaldi, Coltellino, Buonomattei, Clemea- 
tillo, Francini, and many others. From Florence, I irart 
to Siena, thence to Home ; where, after I had spent about 
two months in viewing the antiquities of that renowned 
city, where I experienced the most friendly attentions from 
Lucas Holstein, and other learned and ingenious men, I 
continued my route to Naples. There I was introduced by 
a certain recluse, with whom I had travelled from Home, to 
John Battista Manso, Marquis of Villa, a nobleman of dis- 
tinguished rank and authority, to whom Torquato Tasso, 
the illustrious poet, inscribed his book on friendship. Dur- 
ing my stay, he gave me singular proofs of his regard : he 
himself conducted me round the city, and to the palace of 
the viceroy ; and more than once paid me a visit at my 
lodgings. On my departure, he gravely apologised for not 
having shown me more civility, which he said he had been 
restrained from doing, because I had spoken with so little 
reserve on matters of religion. When I was preparing to 
pass over into Sicily and Greece, the melancholy intelligence 
which I received of the civil commotions in England made 
me alter my purpose ; for I thought it base to be travelling 
for amusement abroad, while my fellow-citizens were fight- 
ing for liberty at home. While I was on my way back to 
Home, some merchants informed me that the English Jesuits 
had formed a plot against me if I returned to Rome, because 
I had spoken too freely on religion ; for it was a rule which 
I laid down to myself in those places, never to be the first 
to begin any conversation on religion ; but if any questions 
were put to me concerning my faith, to declare it without 
any reserve or fear. I, nevertheless, returned to Home. I 



took no steps to conceal either my person or my character ; 
and for abont the space of two months I again openly 
defended, as I had done before, the reformed religion, in the 
very metropolis Of popery. By the favour of God, I got 
safe back to Florence, where I was received with as much 
affection as if I had returned to my native country. There 
I stopped as many months as I had done before, except that 
I made an excursion for a few days to Lucca ; and, crossing 
the Apennines, passed through Bologna and Ferrara to 
Venice. After I had spent a month in surveying the curio- 
sities of this city, and had put on board a ship the books 
which I had collected in Italy, I proceeded through Verona 
and Milan, and along the Leman lake to Geneva. At Ge- 
neva I held daily conferences with John Deodati, the learned 
Professor of Theology. Then, pursuing my former route 
through France, I returned to my native country, after an 
absence of one year, and about three months." 

To this hurried narrative a few facts should be added, 
which Milton's modesty led him to conceal. Of the degree of 
admiration he excited in Italy, some idea may be formed 
from the poetic offerings he received from the most eminent 
Italians of the age. He was admitted into those literary 
societies which had arisen under the patronage of the 
Medici. In their assemblies, he informs us, * " it was the 
custom that every one should give some proof of his wit and 
reading." And many of the productions of his earlier years, 
and others which he composed at the time, were received 
" with written encomiums, which the Italian is not forward 
to bestow on men of this side the Alps." Among these 
panegyrists may be mentioned Carlo Dati and Antonio 
Francini, at Florence, who addressed to him, the one an 
Italian ode, and the other a Latin address, filled with enthu- 
siastic prediction and praise. Selvaggi also, and Salsilli, at 
Borne, presented him with two complimentary epigrams. 

* The Reason of Church Government urged against Prelacy. 
Works, yoI. ii. p. 477. 


The former anticipates the idea conveyed in Dryden's veil- 
known epigram, by making him equal to Homer and Viigi 
The latter describes the Thames as rendered more illnitrioa 
by Milton than all the streams which were consecrated tjr 
the muses of Hdmer, Virgil, and Tasso. A similar honour mi 
paid him at Naples by Manso, the princely patron of Tun 
Both he and Salsilli were amply repaid for their courteria; 
as both are best known to posterity by extended Latii 
poems which Milton afterwards addressed to them, in which 
his feelings towards them are described with his own clank 
elegance and beauty. 

At Rome he received the most flattering* considerauoa 
from Cardinal Barberini, the nephew of Urban VIII. Hav- 
ing invited Milton to a magnificent musical entertainment, 
the cardinal awaited his arrival at the door, and led him by 
the hand into the assembly. It is supposed to have been at 
this entertainment that he saw and heard the beautifal 
Leonora Baroni, with whose charms ho was smitten, and 
whom he has celebrated in three of his choicest Latin 

It was amidst the combined inspirations of nature, art, 
society, and rising reputation, which concentrated on the 
glowing mind of Milton, during his residence in Italy, that 
he began to be conscious of his own vast powers, and to 
conceive, though indistinctly at first, the great project 
which was destined to make his fame co-extensive with the 
world, and coeval with the latest date of its history. 

It is exceedingly interesting to trace, in Milton's ovn 
ingenuous language, the successive states of his mind, and 
the gradual strengthening of his aspirations, at this time. 
We have already listened to his first timid announcement 
of them, in a private letter to his Mend Deodati. The next 
appears at the close of the Latin address to Manso, which 
we have already mentioned ; and this, that it may be gene- 
rally understood, must be presented in Sterling's translation, 
which does sad injustice to the original. 


Oh ! might a Mend, endow'd like you by Heaven, 
To adorn the bard and judge the strain be given, 
"Whene'er my Muse shall sound the British strings, 
And wake again to song her native kings : 
Hail her great Arthur ! who, from mortals far, 
Now pants for his return, and burns for war : 
Record the hero-knights who sheathed the sword, 
Link'd in strong union, round the mighty board, 
And break (if daring genius fail not here) 
The Saxon phalanx with' the British spear. 
Then when, not abjectly discharged, my trust 
Of life was closed, and dust required its dust, 
Oh ! might that friend, with dewy eye-lids near, 
Catch my last sigh, and tell me I was dear : 
Then my pale limbs, resolved in death's embrace, 
Beneath an humble tomb devoutly place ; 
And haply, too, arrest my fleeting form 
In marble, from the sculptor's chisel warm 
And full of soul ; while round my temples play 
The Paphian myrtle, and Parnassian bay. 
Meantime composed in consecrated rest, 
I share the eternal Sabbath of the bless'd. 
If faith deceive not, — if the mighty prize 
Be fix'd for ardent virtue in the skies ; 
There, where the wing of holy toil aspires, 
Where the just mingle with celestial quires, 
There, as my fates indulge, I may behold 
These pious labours from my world of gold : 
There while a purple glory veils my face, 
Feel my mind swell to fit her heavenly place : 
And, smiling at my life's successful fight, 
Exult and brighten in ethereal light. 

In terminating my notices of the Latin poetry of Milton 
th this his most admired effort, I pause in my narrative, 
present the reader with Mr. Macaulay's admirable 
serrations on this accomplishment, as possessed by the 
Bat bard. 

" Versification," he says, " in a dead language, is an exotic, 
far-fetched, costly, sickly imitation of that which else- 
iere may be found in healthful and spontaneous per- 
;tion. The soils on which this rarity flourishes are, in 


general, as ill suited to the production of vigorous native 
poetry, as the flower-pots of a hothouse to the growth of 
oaks. That the author of the Paradise Lost should haw 
written the epistle to Manso was truly wonderful. Never 
before were such marked originality and such exquisite 
mimicry found together. Indeed, in all the Latin poems of 
Milton, the artificial manner, indispensable to such worb* 
is admirably preserved, while, at the same time, the rich- 
ness of his fancy, and the elevation of his sentiments, give 
to them a peculiar charm, an air of nobleness and freedom, 
which distinguishes them from all other writings of the 
same class. They remind us of the amusements of those 
angelic warriors who composed the cohort of Gabriel, 

1 About him exercised heroic games 
The unarmed youth of heaven. Bnt o'er their heads 
Celestial armoury, shield, helm, and spear, 
Hung bright with diamond naming and with gold.' 

We cannot look upon the sportive exercises for which the 
genius of Milton ungirds itself, without catching a glimpse 
of the gorgeous and terrible panoply which it is accustomed 
to wear. The strength of his imagination triumphed over 
every obstacle. So intense and ardent was the fire of his 
mind, that it not only was not suffocated beneath the weight 
of its fuel, but penetrated the whole superincumbent mass 
with its own heat and radiance." 



To explain some of the allusions to early British history 
•which the epistle to Manso contains, and to manifest the fur- 
ther development of the great idea in Milton's bosom, it is ne- 
cessary to anticipate chronology, and to have recourse to his 
own description of his state of mind at this time, as given in 
his " Reason of Church Government urged against Prelacy ," 
published in 1641. " I must say, therefore," he commences, 
" that after I had, for my first years, by the ceaseless diligence 
and care of my father (whom God recompense !) been exer- 
cised to the tongues, and some sciences, as my age would 
suffer, by sundry masters and teachers, both at home and at 
the schools, it was found that, whether aught was imposed 
by them that had the overlooking, or betaken to of mine 
own choice, in English, or other tongue, prosing, or versing, 
but chiefly by this latter, the style, by certain vital signs it 
had, was likely to live." Then, having referred to his Italian 
encomiasts, he adds, "I began thus far to assent both to them 
and divers of my friends here at home, and not less to an 
inward prompting which now grew daily upon me, that by 


labour and intense study, (which I take to be my portion in 
this life,) joined with the strong propensity of nature, I 
might, perhaps, leave something so written, to affcetfimes, 
as they should not willingly let it die. These thoughts at 
once possessed me, and these other : that if I were certain 
to write as men buy leases, for three lives and downward, 
there ought no regard be sooner had than to God's glory, 
by the honour and instruction of my country. For which 
cause, and not only for that I knew it would be hard 
to arrive at the second rank among the Latins, I applied 
myself to that resolution, which Ariosto followed against 
the persuasions of Bembo, to fix all the industry and art I 
could unite to the adorning of my native tongue; not to 
make verbal curiosities the end, (that were a toilsome 
vanity,) but to be an interpreter and relater of the best and 
sagest things among mine own citizens throughout this 
island in the mother dialect. That what the greatest and 
choicest wits of Athens, Rome, or modern Italy, and those 
Hebrews of old did for their country, I, in my proportion, 
with this over and above, of being a Christian, might do 
for mine ; not caring to be once named abroad, though per- 
haps I could attain to that, but content with these British 
islands as my world; whose fortune hath hitherto been, 
that if the Athenians, as some say, made their small deeds 
great and renowned by their eloquent writers, England 
hath had her noble achievements made small by the unskil- 
ful handling of monks and mechanics. 

" Time serves not now, and perhaps I might seem too pro- 
fuse, to give any certain account of what the mind at home, 
in the spacious circuits of her musing, hath liberty to pro- 
pose to herself, though of highest hope and hardest attempt- 
ing; whether that epic form whereof the two poems of 
Homer, and those other two of Virgil and Tasso, are a 
difluse, and the book of Job a brief model ; or whether the 
rules of Aristotle herein are strictly to be kept, or nature to 
be followed, which in them that know art, and use judg- 


. ment, is no transgression, but an enriching of art : and, 
lastly, what king or knight, before the Conquest, might be 
chosen in whom to lay the pattern of a Christian hero. 
And as Tasso gave to a prince of Italy his choice, whether 
lie would command him to write of Godfrey's expedition 
against the Infidels, or Belisarius against the Goths, or 
Gharlemain against the Lombards ; if to the instinct of 
nature, and the emboldening of art aught may be trusted, 
and that there be nothing adverse in our climate, or the 
fate of this age, it haply would be no rashness, from an 
equal diligence and inclination, to present the like offer in 
our own ancient stories ; or whether those dramatic consti- 
tutions, wherein Sophocles and Euripides reign, shall be 
found more doctrinal and exemplary to a nation. The 
Scripture also affords us a divine pastoral drama in the Song 
of Solomon, consisting of two persons, and a double chorus, 
as Origen rightly judges. And the Apocalypse of St 
John is the majestic image of a high and stately tragedy, 
shutting up and intermingling her solemn scenes and acts 
with a seven-fold chorus of hallelujahs and harping sym- 
phonies : and this my opinion, the grave authority of 
Pareus, commenting that book, is sufficient to confirm. 
Or if occasion shall lead, to imitate those magnific odes and 
hymns, wherein Pindarus and Callimachus are in most things 
worthy, some others in their frame judicious, in their matter 
most an end faulty. But those frequent songs throughout 
the law and prophets beyond, all these, not in their divine 
argument alone, but in the very critical art of composition, 
may be easily made appear over all the kinds of lyric poesy • 
to be incomparable. These abilities, wheresoever they be 
found, are the inspired gift of God rarely bestowed, but yet 
to some (though most abuse) in every nation, and are of 
power, beside the office of a pulpit, to inbreed and cherish 
in a great people the seeds of virtue and public civility, to 
allay the perturbations of the mind, and set the affections in 
right tune ; to celebrate in glorious and lofty hymns the 


throne and equipage of God's Almightinese, and what bi 
work* and what he suffers to be wrought with High Proii- 
deiico in his Church; to sing victorious agonies of martyn 
and saints, the deeds and triumphs of just and pious nations, 
doing valiantly through faith against the enemies of Christ \ 
to deplore the general relapses of kingdoms and states from 
justice and God's true worship. Lastly, whatsoever in religion 
is holy and sublime, in virtue amiable or grave, whatsoever 
hath passion or admiration in all the changes of that which 
is called fortune from without, or the wily subtleties and 
refluxes of man's thoughts from within ; all these things 
with a solid and treatable smoothness to paint out and de- 
scribe. • * * * Neither do I think it shame to covenant 
with any knowing reader, that for some few years yet I may 
go on trust with him toward the payment of what I am now 
indebted, as being a work not to be raised from the heat of 
youth, or the vapours of wine ; like that which flows at 
waste from the pen of some vulgar amourist, or the trencher 
fury of a rhyming parasite ,* nor to be obtained by the in- 
vocation of dame Memory and her siren daughters, but by 
devout prayer to that Eternal Spirit, who can enrich with 
all utterance and knowledge, and sends out his seraphim, 
with the hallowed fire of his altar, to touch and purify the 
lips of whom he pleases : to this must be added industrious 
and select reading, steady observation, insight into all 
seemly and generous arts and affairs ; till which, in some 
measure, be compassed at mine own peril and cost, I 
refuse not to sustain this expectation from as many as are 
not loth to hazard so much credulity upon the best pledges 
that I can give them." 

It was under the influence of these ambitious, and yet 
devout aspirations, that Milton prepared to quit the shores of 
Italy without prosecuting his travels to Greece, and to take 
his part in the great transactions on which the destiny of his 
country was suspended. Before he left, however, he visited, 
as he himself informs us, the illustrious Galileo, then in old 


age and poverty, and spirit-broken by the merciless perse- 
cation of the Romish church. We have, unfortunately, no 
record of the particulars of this interview ; but it is natural 
to suppose that a spectacle so impressively sad must have 
intensified Milton's sense of the miseries and misehiefs 
which result from arming any ecclesiastical body with the 
powers of the State. 

On arriving in England he was informed of the prema- 
ture death of his Mend Deodati, and paid to his memory the 
"meed of a melodious tear," in a Latin monody written in 
the pastoral style. In this he again intimates his determi- 
nation to perpetuate his name by the composition of an epic 
poem. At this time, however, he had not formed the 
grander conception which he ultimately developed. His 
thoughts were as yet turned solely to early British history ; 
— he resolved that his poem should be of national interest ; 
and declared that his hopes would be satisfied if his fame 
should be bounded by the British seas. 

Milton's first fixed residence was in London, at a lodging 
which he hired in St. Bride's church-yard, where he received 
the two sons of his sister, Edward and John Philips, for the 
purpose of education. Dr. Johnson, who wrote his Life of 
Milton under a morbid anxiety to find something to dis- 
parage and to censure, and whose malignity increased with 
his disappointments, thus notices the event just recorded : — 
" Let not our veneration for Milton forbid us to look with 
some degree of merriment on great promises and small per- 
formance ; on the man who hastens home, because his coun- 
trymen are contending for their liberty, and when he 
reaches the scene of action, vapours away his patriotism in 
a private boarding-school. This is the period of his life 
from which all his biographers seem inclined to shrink. 
They are unwilling that Milton should be degraded to a 
school-master — which no wise man will consider in itself 
disgraceful." It is painful to contemplate, in such evidences 
as this, the littleness of Johnson's character in contrast with 


the acknowledged greatness and vigour of his inteUecfaul 
powers, the extent of his learning, the patience of hit in- 
dustry, and the unquestionable value of the works whid 
resulted from this rare combination. The " great promW 
to which Dr. Johnson refers, were all contained in the fol- 
lowing simple statement : — " When I was preparing to jm 
over into Sicily and Greece, the melancholy intelligence 
which I received of the civil commotions in England made 
me alter my purpose ; for I thought it base to be travelling 
for amusement abroad, when my fellow-citizens were fight- 
ing for liberty at home." If the writer considered that 
these words committed Milton to the necessity of shoulder 
ing his musket and marching off to the scene of conflict, 
his foolish error might have been corrected by the language 
of Milton himself, in his ' Second Defence of the People of 
England,' which it is quite probable Johnson never read 
" llelying on the assistance of God, they indeed repelled 
servitude with the most justifiable war; and though I claia 
no share of their peculiar praise, I can easily defend myself 
against the charge (if any charge of that nature should he 
brought against me) of timidity or of indolence. For I did 
not for any other reason decline the toils and dangers of 
war than that I might in another way, with much mare 
efficacy, and with not less danger to myself, render assist- 
ance to my countrymen, and discover a mind neither 
shrinking from adverse fortune, nor actuated by any im- 
proper fear of calumny or of death. Since from my child- 
hood, I had been devoted to the more liberal studies, and 
was always more powerful in my intellect than in my body, 
avoiding the labours of the camp, in which any robust 
common soldier might easily have surpassed me, I betook 
myself to those weapons which I could wield with the most 
effect, and I conceived that I was acting wisely when I thus 
brought my better and more valuable faculties, those which 
constituted my principal strength and consequence, to the 
assistance of my country and her most honourable cause." 


Johnson, indeed, speaks of his veneration for Milton; 
though it must he evident to every one who is intimately 
acquainted with their characters, that the biographer was • 
destitute both of the mental and moral qualities which 
alone could enable him to' appreciate the noble character of 
the poet ; and while he sneers at the school as a " wonder- 
working academy/' because it was Milton's, he obligingly 
seeks to rescue that employment from contempt, because he 
himself happened to have been engaged in it. 

The convulsion of the times, which was now approaching 
its crisis, withdrew the mind of Milton from its cherished 
object, — the pursuit of poetry and literature, and impelled 
him to the front ranks of that controversial fray which, in 
the then unexpected result, proved to be the all-important 
and decisive conflict. The contest between Charles and his 
people — the history and sequel of which will be memorable 
so long as the greatness of human nature shall rise against 
political and spiritual despotism, and so long as the infirmity 
of that nature shall allow of the pitiable sequence of reac- 
tion — was the battle not of powers, but of principles. And 
while Milton never doubted of the prowess or the success of 
the forces banded against the tyrant in the field, he felt that 
the opposition was directed against the palpable, material 
results of those principles, which were themselves but 
scantily understood. His sagacious mind foresaw that 
while the external machinery was removed, the motive 
power might remain; and that one engine of tyranny might 
be displaced, only to make room for another, which, veiled 
under an illusory name, might be mightier for mischief. 
Hence his great purpose was to avail himself of the position 
he held in advance of his age, in order to prepare his coun- 
trymen for the future, and to enable them, by a wise cogniz- 
ance of the signs of the times, to evade the perils of the 
storm without splitting on the rocks that beset the harbour. 

In this most critical position of public affairs, he has 
recorded, and thus enabled us to present, in his own Ian- 


guage, the facts and feelings by which his course nu 
guided. " I returned to my native country,"* he says, u after 
an absence of one year and about three months, at the tins 
when Charles, having broken the peace, was renewing whit 
is called the episcopal war with the Scots, in which tin 
royalists, being routed in the first encounter, and the EngM 
being universally and justly disaffected, the necessity of hk 
affairs at last obliged him to convene a parliament. As soot 
as I was able, I hired a spacious house in the city for myself 
and my books ; where I again, with rapture, renewed my liter- 
ary pursuits, and where I awaited the issue of the contest, 
which I trusted to the wise conduct of Providence, and tf 
the courage of the people. The vigour of the parliament 
had begun to humble the pride of the bishops. As long ai 
the liberty of speech was no longer subject to control, all 
mouths began to be opened against the bishops ; some com- 
plained of the vices of the individuals, others of those of 
the order. They said that it was unjust that they alone 
should differ from the model of other reformed churches ; 
that the government of the church should be according to 
the pattern of other churches, and particularly the Word of 
God. This awakened all my attention and my zeal. I saw 
that a way was opening for the establishment of real liberty ; 
that the foundation was laying for the deliverance of man 
from the yoke of slavery and superstition ; that the prin- 
ciples of religion, which were the first objects of our care, 
would exert a salutary influence on the manners and consti- 
tution of the republic ; and as I had, from my youth, studied 
the distinctions between religious and civil rights, I per- 
ceived that if I ever wished to be of use, I ought at least 
not to be wanting to my country, to the church, and to so 
many of my fellow-Christians, in a crisis of so much danger; 
I therefore determined to relinquish the other pursuits in 
which I was engaged, and to transfer the whole force of my 

* c The Second Defence of the People of England/ Prose Works, 
vol. i. p. 257. 


talents and my industry to this one important object. I 
accordingly wrote two books to a friend, concerning the 
reformation of the Church of England." 

That the prosecution of this purpose was distasteful to 
him, and only undertaken under an imperious sense of duty, 
we learn from his own acknowledgment; for he laments that 
he was forced " to interrupt the pursuit of his hopes, and 
to leave a calm and pleasing solitariness, fed with cheerful 
and confident thoughts, to embark on a troubled sea of 
noises and hoarse disputes, from beholding the bright coun- 
tenance of truth in the quiet and still air of delightful 
studies." And, again : " For surely to every good and peace- 
able man, it must, in nature, needs be a hateful thing to be 
the displeaser and molester of thousands; much better 
would it like him, doubtless, to be the messenger of glad- 
ness and contentment, which is his chief intended business 
to all mankind, but that they resist and oppose their own 
true happiness. But when God commands to take the 
trumpet, and blow a dolorous or a jarring blast, it lies not 
in man's will what he shall say, or what he shall conceal. 
If he shall think to be silent, as Jeremiah did, because of 
the reproach and the derision he met with daily, * and 
all his familiar Mends watched for his halting/ to be re- 
venged on him for speaking the truth, he would be forced 
to confess as he confessed : ' His word was in my heart as a 
burning fire shut up in my bones : I was weary with for- 
bearing, and could not stay.' * * * * Lastly, I should not 
choose this manner of writing, wherein, knowing myself 
inferior to myself — led by the genial power of nature to 
another task, I have the use, as I may account, but of 
my left hand." * 

In describing the train of reasoning pursued in the two 
books " Of Reformation in England, and the Causes that 

* * The Reason of Church Government urged against Prelacy.' 
Prose Works, yoL ii pp. 474, 477. 


hitherto have hindered it," I shall adopt, with but htfle 
alteration, the brief but complete analysis of Toland. Ik 
the first, he points out what were, during and subsequent^ 
the reign of Henry VIII., the real impediments to aperftet 
reformation in this kingdom. These he reduces under til 
principal heads — the retention of popish ceremonies, ui 
the confiding to diocesan bishops illegitimate powers final 
which the people were excluded. " Our ceremonies," te 
says, " are senseless in themselves, and serve for nothing 
but either to facilitate our return to popery, or to hide the 
defects of better knowledge, or to set off the pomp of pie* 
lacy." With regard to the bishops, he affirms that, "at the 
beginning, though they had removed the pope, they hugged 
the popedom, and shared the authority among themselves.' 
That, in King Edward VL's time, " they were, with tiwir 
prostitute gravities, the common stoles to countenance everj 
politic fetch that was then on foot. If a toleration for man 
was to be begged of the king for his sister Mary, kst 
Charles V. should be angry, who but the grave prelates, 
Cranmer and Ridley, should be sent to extort it from the 
young king ? But out of the mouth of that godly and royal 
child, Christ himself returned such an awful repulse to 
these halting and time-serving prelates, that, after much 
bold importunity, they went their way, not without shame 
and tears. When the Lord Sudley, Admiral of England, 
was wrongfully to lose his life, no man could be found fitter 
than Latimer to divulge, in his sermon, the forged accusa- 
tions laid to his charge, to defame him with the people. 
Cranmer, one of the king's executors, and the other bishop 
did, to gratify the ambition of a traitor, consent to exclude 
from the succession, not only Mary the papist, but also 
Elizabeth the protestant, though before declared by them- 
selves the lawful issue of their late master." In Queen 
Elizabeth's reign, he imputes the obstruction of a further 
reformation still to the bishops ; and then proceeds to prove, 
from antiquity, that all ecclesiastical elections belonged to 


the people ; but- that if those ages had favoured episcopacy, 
we should not be much concerned, since the best times were 
extensively infected with error, the best men of those times 
foully tainted, and the best writings of those men danger- 
ously adulterated. These propositions he labours to prove 
St large, and thus concludes : " But I trust they for whom 
God hath reserved the honour of reforming this church, will 
easily perceive their adversary's drift in thus calling for 
antiquity. They fear the plain field of the Scriptures ; the 
chase is too hot ; they seek the dark, the bushy, the tangled 
forest ; they would imbosk ; they feel themselves struck in 
the transparent streams of Divine truth ; they would plunge 
and tumble, and think to lie hid in the foul weeds and 
muddy waters where no plummet can reach the bottom. 
But let them beat themselves like whales, and spend their 
oil till they be dragged ashore : though wherefore should 
ministers give them so much line for shifts and delays? 
Wherefore should they not urge only the Gospel, and hold 
it ever in their faces, like a mirror of diamond, till it dazzle 
and pierce their misty eyeballs, — maintaining the honour of 
its absolute sufficiency and supremacy inviolable ?" 

In the second book, he continues his discourses of prelati- 
cal episcopacy, and displays the political aspect of the 
system, which he shows to be always opposed 'to liberty. 
He deduces its history from its remotest origin, and proves 
that, " in England particularly, it is so far from being, as 
commonly alleged, the only form of church discipline agree- 
able to monarchy, that the mortallest diseases and convul- 
sions of the government did ever proceed from the craft of 
the prelates, or were occasioned by their pride." 

Having thus indicated the general scope of this treatise, 
I shall endeavour to bring the reader better acquainted with 
it, by selecting a few passages which best convey an impres- 
sion of Milton's controversial powers and style, which most 
dearly develop his ecclesiastical principles, and which are 
best calculated to attach to the prose writings of Milton a 


greater amount of attention than they have ever as yet 

He naturally commences with the first grand defectki 
from the simplicity of the Christian religion — the paptl 
apostacy ; and after lamenting its fraud of " deceivable tit- 
ditions, its beggary of old cast rudiments, and its sensual 
idolatry," he adds, "Attributing purity or impurity to 
things indifferent, that they might bring the inward ads d 
the spirit to the outward and customary eye-service of the 
body, as if they could make God earthly and fleshly, be* 
cause they could not make themselves heavenly and spiritual; 
they began to draw down all the Divine intercourse betwixt 
God and the soul, yea, the very shape of God himself, into 
an exterior and bodily form, urgently pretending a necessity 
and obligement of joining the body in a formal reverence 
and worship circumscribed ; they hallowed it, they fumed 
it, they sprinkled it, they bedecked it, not in robes of pore 
innocency, but of pure linen, with other deformed and fan- 
tastic dresses, in palls and mitres, gold, and gewgaws fetched 
from Aaron's old wardrobe, or the flamen's vestry : then was 
the priest set to con his motions and his postures, his litur- 
gies and his lurries, till the soul, by this means of over- 
bodying herself, given up justly to fleshly delights, bated 
her wing apace downward : and finding the ease she had 
from her visible and sensuous colleague, the body, in per- 
formance of religious duties, her pinions now broken, and 
flagging, shifted off from herself the labour of high, soaring 
any more, forgot her heavenly flight, and left the dull and 
droiling carcase to plod on in the old road, and drudging 
trade of outward conformity." 

From these general considerations, Milton descends to 
the two great particulars and the erroneous views which 
have most distracted the church ever since his day, viz., the 
sacraments of Baptism and the Lord's Supper, and the rela- 
tion which its pretended priesthood sustains towards them. 
This point he dismisses With brevity, but in terms pregnant 


with instruction to the present generation. " Then was 
baptism changed into a kind of exorcism, and water, sancti- 
fied by Christ's institute, thought little enough to wash off 
the original spot, without the scratch or cross impression of 
a priest's forefinger : and that feast of free grace and adop- 
tion to which Christ invited his disciples to sit as brethren, 
and co-heirs of the happy covenant, which at that table was 
to be sealed to them, even that feast of love and heavenly- 
admitted fellowship, the seal of filial grace, became the 
subject of horror, and glouting adoration, pageanted about 
like a dreadful idol ; which sometimes deceives well-mean- 
ing men, and beguiles them of their reward, by their volun- 
tary humility : which, indeed, is fleshly pride, preferring a 
foolish sacrifice, and the rudiments of the world, as St. Paul 
to the Colossians explaineth, before a savoury obedience to 
Christ's example." 

From the shadow of these mournful considerations Milton 
emerges with an evident sense of elation and relief to cele- 
brate the glorious, though partial, revival of religious truth 
which had been witnessed by the age immediately preceding 
his own. "But to dwell no longer in characterizing the 
depravities of the church, and how they sprung and how 
they took increase ; when I recall to mind at last, after so 
many dark ages, wherein the huge overshadowing train of 
error had almost swept all the stars out of the firmament of 
the church; how the bright and blissful Reformation (by 
divine power) struck through the black and settled night of 
ignorance and anti-christian tyranny, methinks a sovereign 
and reviving joy must needs rush into the bosom of him 
that reads or hears ; and the sweet odour of the returning 
gospel imbathe his soul with the fragrancy of heaven. Then 
was the sacred Bible sought out of the dusty corners where 
profane falsehood and neglect had thrown it, the schools 
opened, divine and human learning raked out of the embers 
of forgotten tongues, the princes and cities trooping apace to 
the new-erected banner of salvation ; the martyrs, with the 


irresistible might of weakness, snaking the powers of dark- 
ness, and scorning the fiery rage of the old red dragon." 

From hence he descends, as has been seen from the few- 
going analysis, to the grand obstacles of the Reformatio*; 
and after noticing the conduct of Henry VHL as a mat 
straggle for an unhallowed supremacy, and the political ob- 
structions which impeded the great work in the reign of Ed- 
ward VI., he continues, with reference to the bishops of that 
age : — " It was not episcopacy that wrought in them the he* 
venly fortitude of martyrdom, as little is it that martyrdom 
can make good episcopacy; but it was episcopacy that led 
the good and holy men, through the temptation of the enemy, 
and the snare of this present world, to many blameworthy 
and opprobrious actions. And it is still episcopacy that 
before all our eyes worsens and slugs the most learned and 
seeming religious of our ministers, who no sooner advanced 
to it, but, like a seething pot set to cool, sensibly exhale and 
reek out the greatest part of that zeal and those gifts which 
were formerly in them, settling in a skinny congealment of 
ease and sloth at the top : and if they keep their learning 
by some potent sway of nature, it is a rare chance; but 
their devotion most commonly comes to that queazy temper 
of lukewarmness, that gives a vomit to God himself. 

" But why do we suffer mis-shapen and enormous prelatism 
as we do, thus to blanch and varnish her deformities with 
the fair colours, as before of martyrdom, so now of episco- 
pacy ? They are not bishops, God and all good men know 
they are not, that have filled this land with late confusion 
and violence; but a tyrannical crew and corporation of im- 
postors, that have blinded and abused the world so long 
under that name. He that, enabled with gifts from God, 
and the lawful and primitive choice of the church assembled, 
in convenient number, faithfully from that time forward 
feeds his parochial flock, has his co-equal and compres- 
byterial power to ordain ministers and deacons by public 
prayer and vote of Christ's congregation, in like sort as he 


himself was ordained, and is a true apostolic bishop. But 
when he steps up into the chair of pontifical pride, and 
changes a moderate and exemplary house for a misgoverned 
and haughty palace, spiritual dignity for carnal precedence, 
and secular high office and employment for the high nego- 
tiations of his heavenly embassage, then he degrades, then 
he unbishops himself; he that makes him bishop, makes 
him no bishop." 

Milton next comments on a subject to which recent events 
have given a special interest, — the revision of the liturgy, 
a task committed to a number of moderate Divines, properly 
so called, as he intimates, being " neither hot nor cold," 
the result of which, under such a queen (Elizabeth) and at 
such a time, was naturally but the reproduction of " the sour 
crudities of yesterday's popery." The locus pomitentue thus 
afforded to those of the clergy who were still imbued with 
the spirit of popery, while for obvious reasons they refused 
allegiance to its power, did not escape the simple-minded 
sagacity of Milton. It is remarkable, however, that this 
capital defect in the constitution of the Anglican church, has 
to a great extent been smothered and concealed by its 
members, until these latter days when the increased strength 
of non-conformity on the one hand, and the leavening influ- 
ence of religion on a portion of the clergy, has excited an 
opposition which has openly revealed it. After proving 
from ancient church history the rightful authority of the 
christian laity in the appointment of their bishops or pastors, 
and pointing out the mischiefs occasioned in the first in- 
stance by the acts of Constantine in linking the Christian 
church with the State, and by the spirit of Constantine, in so 
far as it has influenced every succeeding generation, he thus 
mournfully applies his remarks to the persecutions which in 
his own day rankly germinated from this root of bitterness. 

a O, Sir, if we could but see the shape of our dear mother 
England as poets are wont to give a personal form to what 
they please, how would she appear, think ye, but in a 


mourning weed, with ashes upon her head, and tears abaft* 
dantly flowing from her eyes, to behold so many of ha 
children exposed at once, and thrust from things of dearest 
necessity, because their conscience could not assent to thiftgi 
which the bishops thought indifferent ? What mare bindmg 
than conscience P What more free than indifferency ? CM 
then, must that indifferency needs be that shall violate til 
strict necessity of conscience; merciless and inhuman that 
free choice and liberty that shall break asunder the bondaaf 
religion ! Let the astrologer be dismayed at the portentM 
blaze of comets, and impressions in the air, as foretelling 
troubles and changes to states : I shall believe there cannot 
be a more ill-boding sign to a nation (God torn the oma 
from us!) than when the inhabitants, to avoid insuffer&Wi 
grievances at home, are enforced by heaps to forsake ttek 
native country." 

He next proceeds to show the evils of a purely political 
kind resulting to any country from the rival power— tk 
imperium in imperio — of a privileged hierarchy. He de* 
monstrates that it is incompatible with a well-regulated 
monarchical constitution — that it soils and degrades the 
sanctity of ecclesiastical discipline — that it drains the national 
wealth, not for the purposes of secular education and ret 
gious teaching, but for aggrandizing the plethoric state of 
prelates and dignitaries ; while it leaves the working clergy 
in penury and neglect, distributing, to use his own worth, 
" a moderate maintenance to every painful minister, that 
now scarce sustains his family with bread, while the prelate 
revel like Belshazzar, with their full carouses in goblets, 
and vessels of gold snatched from God's temple." In tins 
respect it may be observed, in passing, the Anglican, likft the 
Roman, church, may boast its immutability. In our em 
day, we have heard a similar complaint from a dignitary of 
the church, as unlike to Milton in his motives, sentiments, 
and style, as he was in his official position. The late Her. 
Sydney Smith, in his well-known letter to Archdeacon 


Singleton, exclaims — " Why is the Church of England to be 
unity an assemblage of beggars and bishops P The Eight 
Reverend Dives in the palace, and Lazarus in orders at his 
gate, doctored by dogs, and comforted with crumbs." 

For the remedy of these multiplied evils, he looks to the 
Reformation commenced in England, and more happily pro- 
secuted in Scotland; and after indignantly referring to the 
Royal policy to embroil them in " a war fit for Cain to be 
the leader of— an abhorred, a cursed, a fraternal war" — he 
breaks out into the following animated ajtostrophe: — 

"Go on both hand in hand, O nations! never to be dis- 
united; be the praise and the heroic song of all posterity; 
merit this, but seek only virtue, not to extend your limits ; 
(for what needs to win a fading triumphant laurel out of the 
tears of wretched men?) but to settle the pure worship of 
God in his church, and justice in the state : then shall the 
hardest difficulties smooth out themselves before ye; envy 
shall sink to hell, craft and malice be confounded, whether 
it be homebred mischief or outlandish cunning ; yea, other 
nations will then covet to serve ye, for lordship and victory 
are but the pages of justice and virtue. Commit securely to 
true wisdom the vanquishing and uncasing of craft and sub- 
tlety, which are but her two runagates : join your invincible 
might to do worthy and godlike deeds ; and then he that 
seeks to break your union, a cleaving curse be his inheritance 
to all generations !" 

Milton next commends the representative element in the 
British constitution, which he compares to the apostolic 
mode of election in the church, and derives from it an argu- 
ment in favour of the appointment of all spiritual func- 
tionaries by the collective suffrage of the members of churches, 
and the total dissociation of every religious body from all 
secular authority, whether legislative or executive. He 
allows that no objections against running into extremes 
should withhold the Parliament from making this separation 
absolute and complete j urging that this avoidance of ex- 


tremes is only justifiable in matters which are morally indif- 
ferent ; but that in such a case as this, involving the mart 
sound considerations, "we ought to hie us from evil like a 
torrent, and rid ourselves of corrupt discipline, as we would 
shake fire out of our bosoms." He traces the multiplied 
evils which prelacy had produced in England far nearly 
twelve hundred years, and shows that in proportion to fat 
political power possessed by the priesthood, have ever been 
the corruption and decay of religion, the demoralization d 
the age, and the perpetration of every species of cruelty. 
After a majestic description of the terrors of legitimate spi- 
ritual discipline, he thus contrasts them with the coarse vd 
unauthorized powers clamoured for by the sordid selnshsM 
of the bishops : — 

" Sir, would you know what the remonstrance of theft 
men would have, what their petition implies ? They entreat 
us that we would not be weary of those insupportable grie* 
ances that our shoulders have hitherto cracked under ; they 
beseech us that we would think them fit to be our justices 
of peace, our lords, our highest officers of state, though they 
come furnished with no more experience than they learnt 
between the cook and the manciple, or more profoundly at 
the college audit, or the regent house, or, to come to their 
deepest insight, at their patron's table ; they would request 
us to endure still the rustling of their silken cassocks, and that 
we would burst our midriffs, rather than laugh to see them 
under sail in all their lawn and sarcenet, their shrouds and 
tackle, with a geometrical rhomboides upon their heads ; they 
would bear us in hand that we must of duty still appear 
before them once a year in Jerusalem, like good circumcised 
males and females, to be taxed by the poll, to be sconced our 
head-money, our twopences, in their chanderly shop-book of 
Easter. They pray us that it would please us to let then 
still hale us, and worry us with their ban dogs and pursui- 
vants ; and that it would please the parliament that they 
may yet have the whipping, fleecing, and flaying of us in 


leir diabolical courts, to tear the flesh from our bones, and 
ito our -wide bounds, instead of balm, to pour in the oil 
f tartar, vitriol, and mercury ; surely, a right-reasonable, 
mooent, and soft-hearted petition! the relenting bowels 
I the fathers ! Can this be granted them, unless God have 
■itten us with frenzy from above, and with a dazzling 
iddiness at noonday ? " 

It is a grand peculiarity of Milton's mind that in its most 
tense excitement it rises to an elevation from which mate- 
al and temporal things are invisible ; and only regains its 
ittmess after a rapt sojourn among the grandeurs that are 
unseen and eternal." When contemplating from the dis- 
nce of years the composition of an epic poem which should 
unortalize his name and illustrate the literature of his 
mntry, he placed its scene amidst the romantic traditions of 
icient Britain. But when the inspiration came, monarchs, 
vuids, and bards were forgotten together ; and, obeying a 
grher vocation, " he passed the flaming bounds of space and 
me." It is under a similar influence that, with his imagi- 
ttion kindled and expanded, as he gained ampler views of 
e glorious possibilities of a state of perfect religious free- 
mi, he closes with the following sublime and perhaps un- 
called invocation : — 

" Thou, therefore, that sittest in light and glory unap- 
■oechable, Parent of angels and men ! next, thee I implore, 
nmipotent King, Redeemer of that lost remnant whose 
kture thou didst assume— ineffable and everlasting love ! 
id thou, the third subsistence of Divine infinitude, illuming 
parit, the joy and solace of created things ! — one Impersonal 
odhead ! look upon this thy poor and almost spent and 
cpiring church: leave her not thus a prey to those impor- 
Enate wolves that wait and think long till they devour thy 
ader flock ; these wild boars that have broke into thy vine- 
nrd, and left the print of their polluting hoofs on the souls of 
iy servants. let them not bring about their damned de- 
gns that stand now at the entrance of the bottomless pit, 


expecting the watchword to open and let out those dreadful 
locusts and scorpions, to re-involve ns in that pitchy clondof 
infernal darkness, where we shall never more see the son of 
thy truth again, never hope for the cheerful dawn, new 
more hear the hird of morning sing ! Be moved with fty 
at the afflicted state of this our shaken monarchy, that Bflf 
lies labouring under her throes, and struggling* against At 
grudges of more dreaded calamities. 

"O Thou, that, after the impetuous rage of five bloodyimm- 
dations, and the succeeding sword of intestine war, soaking 
the land in her own gore, didst pity the sad and ceaseless 
revolution of our swift and thick-coming sorrows : whenm 
were quite breathless, of thy free grace didst motion peace 
and terms of covenant with us ; and having first well nigi 
freed us from antichristian thraldom, didst build up this 
Britannic empire to a glorious and enviable height, withtU 
her daughter islands about her : stay us in this felicity; let 
not the obstinacy of our half obedience and will-worship 
bring forth that viper of sedition, that for these fourscore 
years hath been breeding to eat through the entrails of our 
peace; but let her cast her abortive spawn without the 
danger of this travailing and throbbing kingdom ; that we 
may still remember, in our solemn thanksgiving, how form 
the northern ocean, even to the frozen Thule, was scattered 
with the proud shipwrecks of the Spanish Armada ; and the 
very maw of hell ransacked, and made to give up her con- 
cealed destruction, ere she could vent it in that horrible and 
damned blast. 

" O how much more glorious will those former deliverances 
appear, when we shall know them not only to have saved 
us from greatest miseries past, but to have reserved us for 
greatest happiness to come ! Hitherto thou hast but freed 
us, and that not fully, from the unjust and tyrannous claim 
of thy foes ; now unite us entirely, and appropriate us to 
thyself; tie us everlastingly in willing homage to the | 
prerogative of thy eternal throne. 


- " And now we know, O Thou our most certain hope and de- 
fence, that thy enemies have been consulting all the sorceries 
of the great whore, and have formed their plots with that 
•ad intelligencing tyrant that mischiefs the world with his 
mines of Ophir, and lies thirsting to revenge his naval ruins 
that have larded our seas; but let them all take counsel 
together, and let it come to nought ; let them decree, and do 
Thou cancel it; let them gather themselves, and be scattered ; 
let them embattle themselves, and be broken; let them 
embattle, and be broken, for Thou art with us. 

"Then, amidst the hymns and hallelujahs of saints, some 
one may perhaps be heard offering at high strains in new 
and lofty measure to sing and celebrate thy divine mercies 
and marvellous judgments in this land throughout all ages ; 
whereby this great and warlike nation, instructed and inured 
to the fervent and continual practice of truth and righteous- 
ness, and casting far from her the rags of her whole vices, 
may press onward to that high and happy emulation to be 
found the soberest, wisest, and most Christian people at that 
day when Thou, the eternal and shortly-expected King, shalt 
open the clouds to judge the several kingdoms of the world; 
and, distributing national honours and rewards to religious 
and just commonwealths, shalt put an end to all earthly 
tyrannies, proclaiming thy universal and mild monarchy 
through heaven and earth ; where they, undoubtedly, that, 
by their labours, counsels, and prayers, have been earnest for 
the common good of religion and their country, shall receive, 
above the inferior orders of the blessed, the regal addition of 
principalities, legions, and thrones, into their glorious titles, 
and in supremacy of beatific vision progressing the deathless 
and irrevoluble circle of eternity, shall clasp inseparable 
hands with joy and bliss, in overmeasure for ever. % 

" But they, contrary, that, by the impairing and diminution 
of the true faith, the distresses and servitude of their country, 
aspire to high dignity, rule, and promotion here, after a 
shameful end in this life (which God grant them), shall be 


thrown down eternally into the darkest and deepest golf of 
hell, where, under the despiteful control, the trample, and 
spurn of all the other damned, that, in the anguish of their 
torture, shall have no other ease than to exercise a raymg 
and bestial tyranny over them as their slaves and negroes 
they shall remain in that plight for ever, the basest, the 
lowermost, the most dejected, most underfoot, and down- 
trodden vassals of perdition ! 9 



While the two Books on Reformation in England were 
hailed hy that increasing portion of the British community 
to whom the Anglican church had become execrable through 
the frantic ferocity of Laud, and the transfusion of his spirit 
through the clergy at large, they stimulated some of the 
wiser and better adherents of that church to the only kind 
of opposition which had even a remote chance of success. 
The first result was the production of a treatise entitled 
M An Humble Remonstrance to the High Court of Parlia- 
ment," from the pen of Bishop Hall : and the publication 
about the same time of Archbishop Usher's work, "The 
Apostolical Institution of Episcopacy." These works drew 
from Milton prompt replies; one being entitled, " Of Prela- 
tical Episcopacy," and the other, " The Reason of Church 
Goremment urged against Prelacy." As literary produc- 
tions, these tracts are thus characterised by Dr. Symmons: 
"like his former controversial productions, they are dis- 
tingmshed by force, acuteness, and erudition ; but their lan- 
guage, though bearing a greater appearance of artifice and 
labour, is still evidently that of a man more conversant with 


the authors of Greece and Borne, than with those of his 
own country, and seems to be formed without sufficient at- 
tention to the genius of his native tongue. This observation 
will apply, with very diminished force, to some of hi 
succeeding compositions : but in all of them there is as 
occasional recurrence of foreign idioms and of a classic 
inversion of phrase, not properly admissible in a language 
in which prepositions supply the place and office of in- 

It cannot be denied that there is much justice in this ob- 
servation ; and it is probable that the very partial and select 
popularity which Milton's prose writings have enjoyed, is 
mainly traceable to this feature in his style. Still it must 
neither be attributed to affectation, nor to a defect of nicety 
of perception and taste. It must be recollected that the Latin 
language and literature were as familiar to Milton as his 
own; that through life he adopted that language in much of 
his private and all his public correspondence, as well as in 
the composition of those of his works for which he desired 
a European notoriety; and that the natural consequence of 
this was an unconscious appropriation of its forms similar to 
that which every one who has sojourned long in a foreign 
country must have observed in himself. Upon the argu- 
ment of this controversy, Dr. Symmons's remarks are not 
quite so correct : " The point at issue between these polemics 
was the divine or the human origin of episcopacy, as a pe- 
culiar order in the church, distinct in kind and pre-eminent 
in degree. That an officer with the title of Episcopus, or Over 
seer, (corrupted first by our ancestors into bigcop, and after- 
wards softened into bishop,) had existed in the church from 
its first construction by the apostles, was a fact which could 
not be denied : but while this officer was asserted by one 
party to have been nothing more than the president of the 
elders, he was affirmed by the other to have been elevated 
above these elders or presbyters by essential privileges, by a 
separate as well as by a superior jurisdiction." 


A perusal of the opening passage of the treatise on Prela- 
tical Episcopacy, will show where the Doctor's misconcep- 
tion lies. " Episcopacy/' says Milton,* " as it is taken for an 
order in the church above a presbyter, or, as we commonly 
name him, the minister of a congregation, is either of divine 
constitution or of human. If only of human, we have the 
same human privilege that all men have ever had since 
Adam, being born free, and in the mistress island of all the 
British, to retain this episcopacy, or to remove it, consult- 
ing with our own occasions and conveniences, and for the pre- 
vention of our own dangers and disquiets, in what best man- 
ner we can devise, without running at a loss, as we must 
needs in those stale and useless records of either uncertain 
or unsound antiquity ; which, if we hold fast to the grounds 
of the reformed church, can neither skill of us, nor we of it, 
so oft as it would lead us to the broken reed of tradition. If 
it be of Divine constitution, to satisfy us fully in that, the 
Scripture only is able, it being the only book left us of Divine 
authority, not in anything more Divine than in the all-suf- 
ficiency it hath to furnish us, as with all other spiritual 
knowledge, so with this in .particular — setting out to us a 
perfect man of God, accomplished to all the good works 
of his charge : through all which book can be nowhere, 
either by plain text or solid reasoning, found any difference 
between a bishop and a presbyter, save that they be two 
names to signify the same order." 

The Treatise, " Of Prelatical Episcopacy," is throughout a 
close tissue of argumentation, but little relieved by those 
sudden gleams and fervid flashes of eloquence which throw 
lustre over his other productions. In his reasoning, he closely 
follows the track of his opponents, exposing the fallacious 
traditions by which prelacy is supported, through " the in- 
digested heap and fry of authors which they call antiquity." 
He clearly shows, first, the small amount of credit to be at- 
tached to those writers to whom his antagonists were accus- 
♦ Prose Works, voL ii. p. 421. 


tomed to appeal "I win not stand to argoe," he says," as jet 
with fair allowance I might, that we may as justly suspeet 
there were some bad and slippery men in that council, uit 
know there are wont to be in our convocations; nor shall 1 
need to plead at this time, that nothing hath been non 
attempted, nor with more subtlety brought about, both a* 
ciently by other heretics, and modernly by papists, than to 
falsify the editions of the councils, of which we hare non 
but from our adversaries' hands, whence eanons, acts, and 
whole spurious councils are thrust upon us ; and hard it 
would be to prove in all, which are legitimate, against tbi 
lawful rejection of an urgent and free disputer. But this I 
purpose not to take advantage of; for what avails it to 
wrangle about the corrupt editions of councils, whenas we 
know that many years ere this time, which was almost ftft 
hundred years after Christ, the councils themselves wen 
foully corrupted with ungodly prelatism, and so for plunged 
into worldly ambition as that it stood them upon long ere 
this to uphold their now well-tested hierarchy by what fair 
pretext soever they could, in like manner as they had now 
learned to defend many other gross corruptions by as ancient 
and supposed authentic tradition as episcopacy ? And what 
hope can we have of this whole council to warrant us a 
matter, four hundred years at least above their time, con- 
cerning the distinction of bishop and presbyter, whenas we 
find them such blind judges of things before their eyes, in 
their decrees of precedency between bishop and bishop, 
acknowledging Rome for the apostolic throne, and Peter, in 
that see, for the rock, the basis, and the foundation of the 
Catholic church and faith, contrary to the interpretation 
of more ancient fathers ? " * 

He next shows, by successive references to Ignatius, Poly- 
carp, Polycrates, Ireneeus, Tertullian, and Clement of Alex- 
andria, that their testimonies were inconsistent with each 
other, and utterly insufficient to establish the facts for which 
♦ Prose Works, voL ii. p. 428. 


they are adduced. After demolishing the authority of Igna- 
tius, he dismisses him with the following passage : — " Had 
God ever intended that we should have sought any part of 
useful instruction from Ignatius, doubtless he would not 
have so ill-provided for our knowledge, as to send him to our 
hands in this broken and disjointed plight ; and if he in- 
tended no such thing, we do injuriously in thinking to taste 
better the pure evangelic manna, by seasoning our mouths 
-with the tainted scraps and fragments of an unknown 
table; and searching among the verminous and polluted rags 
dropped overworn from the toiling shoulders of time, with 
these deformedly to quilt and interlace the entire, the spot- 
less, and undecaying robe of truth, the daughter, not of time, 
hut of Heaven, only bred up here below in Christian hearts, 
between two grave and holy nurses, the doctrine and disci- 
pline of the gospel."* 

In estimating the value of Tertullian's evidence, he says : 
** We grant them bishops, we grant them worthy men, we 
grant them placed in several churches by the apostle ; we 
grant that Irenseus and Tertullian affirm this ; but that they 
were placed in a superior order above the presbytery, show 
from all these words why we should grant It is not enough 
to say the apostle left this man bishop in Borne, and 
that other in Ephesus ; but to show when they altered their 
own decree set down by St. Paul, and made all the presby- 
ters underlings to one bishop. But suppose Tertullian had 
made an imparity where none was originally, should he 
move us, that goes about to prove an imparity between God 
the Father and God the Son, as these words import in his 
book against Praxeas ? — * The Father is the whole substance, 
but the Son a derivation, and portion of the whole, as he 
himself professes, "Because the Father is greater than me." ' 
Believe him now for a faithful relater of tradition, whom 
you see such an unfaithful expounder of the Scripture. Be- 
sides, in his time, all allowable tradition was now lost. For 
♦ Prose Works, vol. ii. p. 428. 


this same author, whom you bring to testify the ordinatka 
of Clement to the bishopric of Rome by Peter, testifies ako, 
in the beginning of his treatise concerning chastity, that tin 
Bishop of Rome did then use to send forth his edicts by ill 
name of Pontifex Maximus, and Episcopus Episcoporn, 
Chief Priest, and Bishop of Bishops : for shame then do sot 
urge that authority to keep up a bishop, that "will necessfr 
rily engage you to set up a pope."* 

The treatise concludes with the following 1 animated ie» 
buke of those who would "set up their ephod and teraphk 
of antiquity against the brightness and perfection of the 
gospel :" — " Lastly, I do not know, it being undeniable tint 
there are but two ecclesiastical orders (bishops anddeaeoni) 
mentioned in the gospel, how it can be less than impiety to 
make a demur at that which is there so perspicuous, con- 
fronting and paralleling the sacred verity of St. Paul wift 
the offals and sweepings of antiquity. Christ has pro- 
nounced that no tittle of his word shall fall to the ground: 
and if one jot be alterable, it is as possible that all should 
perish j and this shall be our righteousness, our ample war- 
rant, and strong assurance, both now and at the last day, 
never to be ashamed of, against all the heaped names of an- 
gels and martyrs, councils and fathers, urged upon us, if we 
have given ourselves up to be taught by the pure and living 
precept of God's word only ; which, without more additions, 
nay, with a forbidding of them, hath within itself the pro- 
mise of eternal life, the end of all our wearisome labours 
and all our sustaining hopes." f 

" The Reason of Church Government urged against Pre- 
lacy" is a more extended treatise, and far more richly cha- 
racterised by the genius of Milton than that on " Prelatical 
Episcopacy." It commences with some general considerations 
on church government, among which we find the following 

* Prose Works, vol. ii. pp. 422, 423. 
+ Ibid. vol. ii. p. 437. 


loble passage on discipline:* " And certainly discipline is 
lot only the removal of disorder ; but if any visible shape 
Ban be given to divine things, the very visible shape and 
image of virtue, whereby she is not only seen in the regular 
gestures and motions of her heavenly paces as she walks, 
bat also makes the harmony of her voice audible to mortal 
ears. Yea, the angels themselves, in whom no disorder is 
feared, as the apostle that saw them in his rapture describes, 
are distinguished and quaternioned into their celestial 
princedoms and satrapies, according as God himself has writ 
his imperial decrees through the great provinces of heaven. 
The state also of the blessed in paradise, though never so 
perfect, is not therefore left without discipline, whose golden 
surveying reed marks out and measures every quarter and 
circuit of New Jerusalem. Yet is it not to be conceived, that 
those eternal effluences of sanctity and love in the glorified 
saints should by this means be confined and cloyed with re- 
petition of that which is prescribed, but that our happiness 
may orb itself into a thousand vagancies of glory and delight 
and with a kind of eccentrical equation, be, as it were, an 
invariable planet of joy and felicity ; how much less can we 
believe that God would leave his frail and feeble, though not 
less beloved, church here below, to the perpetual stumble of 
conjecture and disturbance in this our dark voyage, without 
the card and compass of discipline ? "f 

And here, it may be allowable to notice, in passing, an 
objection brought against our author by one of his greatest 
admirers, and certainly the most acute and judicious editor 

* Prose Works, vol. ii. p. 442. 

+ This language will remind the reader of Hooker's much-admired 
passage on law, which for the sake of comparison I shall subjoin with- 
out comment : — " The seat of law is the bosom of dk>d; her voice the 
harmony of the world : all things in heaven and earth do her homage ; 
the very least as feeling her care, the greatest as not exempt from her 
power : — both angels and men, and creatures of what condition soever, 
though each in different sort and manner, yet all with uniform con- 
sent, admiring her as the mother of their peace and joy." — Ecclesias- 
tical Polity, Book I. adfinem. 


of the matter, y 

of his prose writings, Mr. St. John. " It is surprising," If |? 
says, " Milton should have taken this -view of the nutter, 
since every section of the Christian church has a diftnat 
form of government To contend for uniformity in fla 
matter, would he to re-establish the papacy ; for wiftosl 
the infallibility of the pope there is obviously no deciding 
what form of church government is prescribed in the gospsl 
Simply, in my opinion, because no form of church, govern- 
ment is there prescribed." This reasoning, I think, fairly 
admits of two replies. First, if no form of church govern- 
ment at all is prescribed in the Scriptures, then all objection 
to the papacy itself, as a system of church government, &Df 
to the ground ; and, secondly, although many partictdm 
of ecclesiastical discipline are left to Christian liberty and 
discretion, to be regulated, in many instances, by the neces- 
sity of the case, yet negatively so much is taught as to lean 
little to be desired by the greatest lover of uniformity. The 
omission of prelatical distinctions in the church would of 
itself bo tantamount to a prohibition, even if we were not 
abundantly supplied with general principles applicable to 
nearly every variety of circumstance. Let any one, for 
example, compare the words of the apostle — " Call no man 
master on earth : for one is your Master, even Christ; and 
all ye are brethren" — with the system of prelatical domina- 
tion in every phase it has exhibited throughout its long and 
disastrous history, and he will not need to search farther for 
the decision of Scripture. 

The appeals of the supporters of prelacy to the Old Testa- 
ment, which had recently been re-produced by the primate 
of Armagh, Milton thus deals with : " The primate, in his 
discourse about the original of episcopacy newly revised, 
begins thus : * The ground of episcopacy is fetched partly 
from the pattern prescribed by God in the Old Testament, 
and partly from the imitation thereof brought in by the 
apostles.' Herein I must entreat to be excused of the 
desire I have to be satisfied how, for example, the ground of 


episcopacy is fetched partly from example of the Old Testa- 
nent, by whom next, and by whose authority. Secondly, 
bow the church government under the gospel can be rightly 
called an imitation of that in the Old Testament ; for that 
the gospel is the end and fulfilling of the law, our liberty also 
from the bondage of the law, I plainly read. How then the 
ripe age of the gospel should be put to school again, and 
learn to govern herself from the infancy of the law, the 
stronger to imitate the weaker, the freeman to follow the 
captive, the learned to be lessoned by the rude, will be a 
hard undertaking to evince from any of those principles 
which either art or inspiration hath written."* 

Milton next addresses himself to the most cherished dogma 
of his opponents — that the system of prelacy secures uni- 
formity of opinion, and represses the " sin of schism." The 
passages which are necessary to put the reader in full pos- 
session of Milton's argument, though long, must be intro- 
duced, as an example of the overwhelming momentum of 
his controversial eloquence : — " Do they keep away schism ? 
If to bring a numb and chill stupidity of soul, an unactive 
blindness of mind, upon the people by their leaden doctrine, 
or no doctrine at all ; if to persecute all knowing and zeal- 
ous Christians by the violence of their courts, be to keep 
away schism, they keep schism away indeed : and by this 
kind of discipline all Italy and Spain is as purely and poli- 
tically kept from schism as England hath been by them. 
With as good a plea might the dead-palsy boast to a man, 
It is I that free you from stitches and pains, and the trouble- 
some feeling of cold and heat, of wounds and strokes : if I 
were gone, all these. would molest you. The winter might 
is well vaunt itself against the spring, I destroy all noisome 
ind rank weeds, I keep down all pestilent vapours ; yes, 
ind all wholesome herbs, and all fresh dews, by your violent 
md hide-bound frost : but when the gentle west winds shall 
pen the fruitful bosom of the earth, thus overgirded by 
* Prose Works, toL ii. p. 450. 


your imprisonment, then the flowers put forth and spring 
and then the sun shall scatter the mists, and the manuring 
hand of the tiller shall root up all that burdens the soil 
without thank to your bondage. But far worse than my 
frozen captivity is the bondage of prelates ; for that other; 
if it keep down anything which is good within the earth, 
so doth it likewise that which is ill ; but these let out freely 
the ill, and keep down the good, or else keep down the leaer 
ill, and let out the greatest. Be ashamed at last to tell tie 
parliament, ye curb schismatics whenas they know ye cherish 
and side with papists, and are now as it were one party with 
them, and it is said they help to petition for ye. Can ve 
believe that your government strains in good earnest at the 
petty gnats of schism, whenas we see it makes nothing to 
swallow the camel heresy of Home, but that indeed your 

throats are of the right pharisaical strain If we go 

down, say you, (as if Adrian's wall were broken,) a flood <rf 
sects will rush in. What sects ? What are their opinions? 
Give us the inventory. It will appear both by your former 
prosecutions and your present instances, that they are only 
such to speak of, as arc offended with your lawless govern- 
ment, your ceremonies, your liturgy, an extract from the 
mass-book translated. But that they should be contemners of 
public prayer, and churches used without superstition, I trust 
God will manifest it ere long to be as false a slander as your 
former slanders against the Scots. Noise it till ye be hoarse, 
that a rabble of sects will come in ; it will be answered ye, 
No rabble, sir priest ; but an unanimous multitude of good 
protestants will then join to the church, which now, because 
of you, stand separated. This will be the dreadful conse- 
quence of your removal. As for those terrible names of 
sectaries and schismatics, which ye have got together, w 
know your manner of fight: when the quiver of your argu- 
ments, which is ever thin and weakly stored, after the firs) 
brunt is quite empty, your course is to betake ye to youi 
other quiver of slander, wherein lies your best archery. Anc 


whom you could not move by sophistical arguing, them you 
think to confute by scandalous misnaming; thereby inciting 
the blinder sort of people to mislike and deride sound doc- 
trine and good Christianity, under two or three vile and 
hateful terms. But if we could easily endure and dissolve 
your doughtiest reasons in argument, we shall more easily 
bear the worst of your unreasonableness in calumny and 
false report : especially being foretold by Christ, that if he 
our master was by your predecessors called Samaritan and 
Beelzebub, we must not think it strange if his best disciples 
in the reformation, as at first by those of your tribe they 
were called Lollards and Hussites, so now by you be termed 
Puritans and Brownists. But my hope is, that the people 
of England will not suffer themselves to be juggled thus 
out of their faith and religion by a mist of names cast before 
their eyes, but will search wisely by the Scriptures, and look 
quite through this fraudulent aspersion of a disgraceful 
name into the things themselves : knowing that the primi- 
tive Christians in their times were accounted such as are 
now called Familists and Adamites, or worse. And many 
on the prelatic side, like the church of Sardis, have a name 
to live, and yet are dead; to be protestants, and are indeed 
papist* in most of their principles. Thus persuaded, this 
your old fallacy ice shall soon unmask, and quickly appre- 
hend how you prevent schism, and who are your schismatics. 
But what if we prevent and hinder all good means of pre- 
venting schism P That way which the apostles used, was to 
call a council : from which, by anything that can be learned 
from the fifteenth of the Acts, no faithful Christian was de- 
barred, to whom knowledge and piety might give entrance. 
Of such a council as this every parochial consistory is a 
right homogeneous and constituting part, being in itself, as 
it were, a little synod, and towards a general assembly 
moving upon her own basis in an even and firm progression, 
as those smaller squares in battle unite in one great cube, 
the main phalwiT, an emblem of truth and stedfastness. 


Whereas, on the other side, prelacy ascending by a gradual 
monarchy from bishop to archbishop, from thence to primate, 
and from thence, for there can be no reason yielded neither 
in nature nor in religion, wherefore, if it have lawfully 
mounted thus high, it should not be a lordly ascendant in 
the horoscope of the church, from primate to patriarch, and 
so to pope : I say, prelacy thus ascending in a continual 
pyramid upon pretence to perfect the church's unity, if not- 
withstanding it be found most needful, yea, the utmost help, 
to darn up the rents of schism by calling a council, what 
does it but teach us that prelacy is of no force to effect this 
work, which she boasts to be her masterpiece ; and that her 
pyramid aspires and sharpens to ambition, not to perfection 
or unity ? This we know, that as often as any great schism 
disparts the church, and synods be proclaimed, the presby- 
ters have as great right there, and as free vote of old, as the 
bishops, which the canon law conceals not. So that prelacy, 
if she will seek to close up divisions in the church, must be 
forced to dissolve and unmake her own pyramidal figure, 
which she affirms to be of such uniting power, whenas 
indeed it is the most dividing and schismatical form that 
geometricians know of, and must be fain to inglobe or in- 
cube herself among the presbyters ; which she hating to do, 
sends her haughty prelates from all parts with their forked 
mitres, the badge of schism, or the stamp of his cloven foot 
whom they serve, I think, who, according to their hierarchies 
acuminating still higher and higher in a cone of prelacy, 
instead of healing up the gashes of the church, as it hap- 
pens in such pointed bodies meeting, fall to gore one an- 
other with their sharp spires for upper place and pre- 
cedence, till the council itself proves the greatest schism of 

all I could put you in mind what counsel Clement, a 

fellow-labourer with the apostles, gave to the presbyters of 
Corinth, whom the people, though unjustly, sought to re- 
move. ' Who among you/ saith he, ' is noble-minded, who 
is pitiful, who is charitable P let him say thus, If for me this 


Bedition, this enmity, these differences be, I willingly depart, 
I go my ways ; only let the flock of Christ be at peace with 
the presbyters that are set over it. He that shall do this/ 
saith he, 'shall get him great honour in the Lord, and all 
places will receive him.' This was Clement's counsel to 
good and holy men, that they should depart rather from their 
just office than by their stay to ravel out the seamless gar- 
ment of concord in the church. But I have better counsel 
to give the prelates, and far more acceptable to their ears ; 
this advice, in my opinion, is fitter for them : Cling fast to 
your pontifical sees, bate not, quit yourselves like barons, 
stand to the utmost for your haughty courts and votes in 
parliament. Still tell us, that you prevent schism, though 
schism and combustion be the very issue of your bodies, 
your first-born ; and set your country a bleeding in a pre- 
latical mutiny, to fight for your pomp, and that ill-favoured 
weed of temporal honour, that sits dishonourably upon your 
laic shoulders j that ye may be fat and fleshy, swoln with 
high thoughts and big with mischievous designs, when God 
comes to visit upon you all this fourscore years' vexation of 
his church under your Egyptian tyranny. For certainly of 
all those blessed souls which you have persecuted, and those 
miserable ones which you have lost, the just vengeance does 
not sleep." * 

In the commencement of the second book of the " Reason 
of Church Government urged against Prelacy," Milton re- 
cords those particulars respecting his education and conti- 
nental travels which have been already presented to the 
reader. Recurring to his subject, he next points out three 
cardinal respects in which prelacy stands opposed to Christi- 
anity. The first of these is, that its lordly assumptions are 
at variance with the precepts and example of the Great 
Author of Christianity, who " came not to be ministered 
unto, btit to minister." The second is, that the pomp and 
ceremony of prelacy are equally at variance with the genius 
• Prose Works, vol. ii. pp. 462—468. 


and design of the Christian religion ; and the third, "that 
prelatical jurisdiction opposeth the reason and end of the 
gospel and of state." 

On this last topic, Milton writes with the intensest fer- 
vour which the ecclesiastical corruption and infernal malice 
of persecution he witnessed in his own day, could kindle. 
He shows that no civil or magisterial jurisdiction to 
ever conferred on the church, hut only the powers of 
spiritual censure, and describes the terrors of these func- 
tions as compared with the contemptible mockery of dis- 
cipline exhibited by the prelates, in one of the most 
remarkable passages to be found in his writings. After 
supposing the case of a Christian who had not only fallen 
into sin, but shown himself insensible to the reproofs, en- 
treaties, and prayers of his brethren, he adds : " But if 
neither the regard of himself, nor the reverence of his elders 
and friends prevail with him to leave his vicious appetite, 
then as the time urges, such engines of terror God hath 
given into the hand of his minster, as to search the tenderest 
angles of the heart : one while he shakes his stubbornness 
with racking convulsions nigh despair; otherwhile* with 
deadly corrosives he gripes the very roots of his faulty liver 
to bring him to life through the entry of death. Hereto the 
whole church beseech him, beg of him, deplore him, pray 
for him. After all this performed with what patience and 
attendance is possible, and no relenting on his part, having 
done the utmost of their cure, in the name of God and of the 
church they dissolve their fellowship with him, and holding 
forth the dreadful sponge of excommunication, pronounce 
him wiped out of the list of God's inheritance, and in the 
custody of Satan till he repent. Which horrid sentence 
though it touch neither life nor limb, nor any worldly posses- 
sion, yet has it such a penetrating force, that swifter than 
any chemical sulphur, or that lightning which harms not the 
skin, and rifles the entrails, it scorches the inmost soul Yet 
even this terrible denouncement is left to the church for no 


other cause but to be as a rough and vehement cleansing 
medicine, where the malady is obdurate, a mortifying to life, 
a kind of saving by undoing. And it may be truly said, 
that as the mercies of wicked men are cruelties, so the cruel- 
ties of the church are mercies. For if repentance sent from 
heaven meet this lost wanderer, and draw him out of that 
steep journey wherein he was hasting towards destruction, to 
come and reconcile to the church, if he bring with him his 
bill of health, and that he is now clear of infection, and of 
no danger to the other sheep ; then with incredible expres- 
sions of joy all his brethren receive him, and set before him 
those perfumed banquets of Christian consolation ; with pre- 
cious ointments bathing and fomenting the old, and now to 
be forgotten stripes, which terror and shame had inflicted; 
and thus with heavenly solaces they cheer up his humble re- 
morse, till he regain his first health and felicity. This is the 
approved way, which the gospel prescribes, these are the 
* spiritual weapons of holy censure, and ministerial warfare, 
not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of 
strong holds, casting down imaginations, and every high 
thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of Ood, and 
bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of 
Christ.' What could be done more for the healing and re- 
claiming that divine particle of God's breathing, the soul ? 
and what could be done less P he that would hide his faults 
from such a wholesome curing as this, and count it a twofold 
punishment, as some do, is like a man that having foul dis- 
eases about him, perishes for shame, and the fear he has of 
a rigorous incision to come upon his flesh. We shall be able 
by this time to discern whether prelatical jurisdiction be con- 
trary to the gospel or no. First, therefore, the government of 
the gospel being economical and paternal, that is, of such a 
family where there be no servants, but all sons in obedience, 
not in servility, as cannot be denied by him that lives but 
within the sound of scripture; how can the prelates justify 
to have turned the fatherly orders of Christ's household, the 


blessed meekness of his lowly roo£ those ever-open ail 
inviting doors of his dwelling-house, which delight to k 
frequented with only filial access; how can they justify ti 
have turned these domestic privileges into the bar of apral 
judicial court, where fees and clamours keep shop and dim 
a trade, where bribery and corruption solicits, paltering tfc 
free and moneyless power of discipline with a carnal art* 
faction by the purse ? Contrition, humiliation, confeaskfl, 
the very sighs of a repentant spirit, are there sold by tit 
penny. That undeflowered and unblemishable simplicity^ 
the gospel, not she herself, for that could never be, bat t 
false-whited, a lawny resemblance of her, like that airbom 
Helena in the fables, made by the sorcery of prelates, instead 
of calling her disciples from the receipt of custom, is not 
turned publican herself; and gives up her body to a mer- 
cenary whoredom under those fornicated arches, which she 
calls God's house, and in the sight of those her altars, whkk 
she hath set up to be adored, makes merchandise of the 
bodies and souls of men. Rejecting purgatory for no other 
reason, as it seems, than because her greediness cannot defer, 
but had rather use the utmost extortion of redeemed penances 
in this life."* 

In conclusion, Milton thus declares the enslaving and ruin- 
ous influence of prelacy on the state and the monarch, and 
pleads for its entire extinction. " I shall show briefly, ere I 
conclude, that the prelates, as they are to the subjects a ca- 
lamity, so are they the greatest underminers and betrayers 
of the monarch, to whom they seem to be most favourable. 
I cannot better liken the state and person of a king than to 
that mighty Nazarite Samson ; who being disciplined from 
his birth in the precepts and the practice of temperance and 
sobriety, without the strong drink of injurious and excessive 
desires, grows up to a noble strength and perfection with 
those his illustrious and sunny locks, the laws, waving and 
curling about his godlike shoulders. And while he keeps 
• Prose Works, vol. ii. pp. 498—500. 


them about him undiminished and unshorn, he may with the 
jawbone of an ass, that is, with the word of his meanest officer, 
suppress and pat to confusion thousands of those that rise 
against his just power. But laying down his head among 
the strumpet flatteries of prelates, while he sleeps and thinks 
no harm, they wickedly shaving off all those bright and 
-weighty tresses of his law, and just prerogatives, which 
were his ornament and strength, deliver him over to indirect 
and violent counsels, which, as those Philistines, put out the 
fair and far-sighted eyes of his natural discerning, and make 
him grind in the prisonhouse of their sinister ends and 
practices upon him : till he, knowing this prelatical razor 
to have bereft him of his wonted might, nourish again 
his puissant hair, the golden beams of law and right ; and 
they sternly shook, thunder with ruin upon the heads of 
those his evil counsellors, but not without great affliction to 
himself. .... For the which, and for all their former mis- 
deeds, whereof this book and many volumes more cannot con- 
tain the moiety, I shall move ye, lords, in the behalf I dare 
say of many thousand good Christians, to let your justice 
and speedy sentence pass against this great malefactor, pre- 
lacy. And yet in the midst of rigour I would beseech ye 
to think of mercy ; and such a mercy, (I fear I shall over- 
shoot with a desire to save this falling prelacy,) such a 
mercy (if I may venture to say it) as may exceed that which 
for only ten righteous persons would have saved Sodom. 
Not that I dare advise ye to contend with God, whether he 
or yon shall be more merciful, but in your wise esteems to 
balance the offences of those peccant cities with these enor- 
mous riots of ungodly misrule, that prelacy hath wrought 
both in the church of Christ, and in the state of this king- 
dom. . And if ye think ye may with a pious presumption 
strive to go beyond God in mercy, I shall not be one now 
that would dissuade ye. Though God for less than ten just 
persons would not spare Sodom, yet if you can find, after 
due search, but only one good thing in prelacy, either to reli- 


gion or civil government, to king or parliament, to prince or 
people, to law, liberty, wealth, or learning, spare her, let her 
live, let her spread among ye, till with her shadow all your 
dignities and honours, and all the glory of the land be 
darkened and obscured- But, on the contrary, if she be 
found to be malignant, hostile, destructive to all these, as 
nothing can be surer, then let your severe and impartial 
doom imitate the divine vengeance ; rain down your punish- 
ing force upon this godless and oppressing government, and 
bring such a dead sea of subversion upon her, that she may 
never in this land rise more to afflict the holy reformed 
church, and the elect people of God." * 

* Prose Works, vol. ii pp. 606—508. 



It was, as has been mentioned before, a spiteful expression 
of Dr. Johnson, that Milton " vapoured away his patriotism in 
a private boarding-school/' So far is this from the truth, 
that, in the year 1641, immediately after his return to Eng- 
land, and in the thirty-third year of his age, he produced no 
fewer than five treatises on the most important subject that 
agitated the minds of that day. His two books of " Re- 
formation in England," his " Treatise on Prelatical Episco- 
pacy," and that entitled the " Reason of Church Govern- 
ment urged against Prelacy," have already been considered. 
The fifth remains to be noticed. A pamphlet had been pub- 
lished, written by five presbyterian ministers, and entitled 
" Smectymnuus," a word formed with the initial letters of the 
names of the authors, Stephen Marshall, Edmund Calamy, 
Thomas Young, Matthew Newcomen, and William Spurston. 
This treatise excited no ordinary degree of attention, and 
elicited a reply from Bishop Hall, under the title of a "De- 
fence of the Remonstrance." This second appearance of 
Bishop Hall on the arena of controversy again summoned 
Milton from his more cherished pursuits : he replied in a 
work, entitled " Animadversions on the Remonstrants' De- 
fence." It was thrown into the form of a dialogue, one 
part of which is sustained by the author, while the other 


is put into the mouth of his opponent, and drawn from hi 
" Defence of the Remonstrance." 

This style of composition afforded an opportunity which 
Milton was not slow to embrace, of visiting his antagonist 
with that severity which, in too many instances, defaced the 
controversies of the day. Of his triumphant mastery over 
the Bishop, no unprejudiced reader can entertain a doubt; 
though it must be admitted that in this, as in some other of 
Milton's controversial writings, his asperity, occasionally 
descending to coarseness, was less consistent with his own 
dignity, than with the deserts of his antagonist. He, how- 
ever, did not content himself with ebullitions of indignant 
satire, and with " scattering about him the instruments of 
pain." The " Animadversions" contain some majestic pas- 
sages, the animation of which is inspired not by the malig- 
nity of the attack, but by the grandeur of the subject, and 
the magnitude of the interests imperilled. One of these 
is so characteristic of the genius of Milton, when led by 
the habit of his mind to vent its excitement in expatiating 
on the grandest subjects of human contemplation, that it 
cannot be omitted in this place. 

"In this age, Britons, God hath reformed his church 
after many hundred years of popish corruption 5 in this 
age he hath freed us from the intolerable yoke of prelates 
and papal discipline; in this age he hath renewed oar 
protestation against all those yet remaining dregs of super- 
stition. Let us all go, every true protested Briton, through- 
out the three kingdoms, and render thanks to God the 
Father of light, and Fountain of heavenly grace, and to his 
Son Christ our Lord, leaving this Remonstrant and his ad- 
herents to their own designs j and let us recount even here 
without delay, the patience and long-suffering that God hath 
used towards our blindness and hardness time after time. 
For he being equally near to his whole creation of mankind, 
and of free power to turn his beneficent and fatherly regard 
to what region or kingdom he pleases, hath yet ever had this 


. island under the special indulgent eye of his providence ; 
and pitying us the first of all other nations, after he had 
r. decreed to purify and renew his church that lay wallowing 
7~ in idolatrous pollutions, sent first to us a healing messenger 
^ to touch softly our sores, and carry a gentle hand over our 
~~ wounds : he knocked once and twice, and came again opening 
our drowsy eyelids leisurely hy that glimmering light which 
WickHff and his followers dispersed; and still taking off hy 
degrees the inveterate scales from our nigh-perished sight, 
■ purged also our deaf ears, and prepared them to attend his 
J second warning trumpet in our grandsire's days. How else 
^ could they have heen ahle to have received the sudden 
^ assault of his reforming Spirit, warring against human prin- 
"l ciples, and carnal sense, the pride of flesh, that still cried 
up antiquity, custom, canons, councils, and laws, and ciied 
down the truth for novelty, schism, profaneness, and sacri- 
lege P whenas we that have lived so long in abundant light, 
besides the sunny reflection of all the neighbouring churches, 
have yet our hearts riveted with those old opinions, and so 
obstructed and benumbed with the same fleshly reasonings, 
which in our forefathers soon melted and gave way, against 
the morning beam of reformation. If God had left undone 
this whole work, so contrary to flesh and blood, till these 
times, how should we have yielded to his heavenly call 
bad we been taken, as they were, in the starkness of our 
ignorance; that yet, after all these spiritual preparatives and 
purgations, have our earthly apprehensions so clammed and 
furred with the old leaven ? O if we freeze at noon after 
their early thaw, let us fear lest the sun for ever hide himself 
and turn his orient steps from our ingratefdl horizon, justly 
condemned to be eternally benighted! Which dreadful 
judgment, O thou the ever-begotten light and perfect Image 
of the Father ! intercede, may never come upon us, as we 
trust thou hast; for thou hast opened our difficult and sad 
times, and given us an unexpected breathing after our long 
i pprcssions : thou hast done justice upon those that tyran- 


nized over us, while some men wavered and admixed a Tain 
shadow of wisdom in a tongue nothing slow to utter gmk, 
though thou hast taught us to admire only that which is 
good, and to count that only praiseworthy, which is grounded 
upon thy divine precepts. Thou hast discovered the plots, 
and frustrated the hopes, of all the wicked in the land, and 
put to shame the persecutors of thy church: thou hast made 
our false prophets to be found a lie in the sight of all the 
people, and chased them with sudden confusion and amaze- 
ment before the redoubled brightness of thy descending cloud, 
that now covers thy tabernacle. Who is there that cannot 
trace thee now in thy beamy walk through the midst of thy 
sanctuary, amidst those golden candlesticks, which have long 
suffered a dimness amongst us through the violence of those 
that had seized them, and were more taken with the mention 
of their gold than of their starry light; teaching the doctrine 
of Balaam, to cast a stumbling-block before thy servants, 
commanding them to eat things sacrificed to idols, and forc- 
ing them to fornication ? Come therefore, O thou that hast 
the seven stars in thy right hand, appoint thy chosen priests 
according to their orders and courses of old, to minister 
before thee, and duly to press and pour out the consecrated 
oil into thy holy and ever-burning lamps. Thou hast sent 
out the spirit of prayer upon thy servants over all the land 
to this effect, and stirred up their vows as the sound of many 
waters about thy throne. Every one can say, that now cer- 
tainly thou hast visited this land, and hast not forgotten the 
utmost corners of the earth, in a time when men had thought 
that thou wast gone up from us to the furthest end of the hea- 
vens, and hadst left to do marvellously among the sons of 
these last ages ! O perfect and accomplish thy glorious acts! 
for men may leave their works unfinished, but thou art a 
God, thy name is perfection : shouldst thou bring us thus 
far onward from Egypt, to destroy us in this wilderness, 
though we deserve, yet thy great name would suffer in the 
rejoicing of thine enemies, and the deluded hope of all thy 


ervants. When thou hast settled peace in the church, and 
igkteous judgment in the kingdom, then shall all thy saints 
ddress their voices of joy and triumph to thee, standing on 
he shore of that Bed Sea into which our enemies had almost 
[riven us. And he that now for haste snatches up a plain 
ingarnished present as a thankoffering to thee, which could 
Lot be deferred in regard of thy so many late deliverances 
wrought for us one upon another, may then perhaps take up 
i harp, and sing thee an elaborate song to generations. In 
hat day it shall no more be said as in scorn, this or that 
wss never held so till this present age, when men have better 
earnt that the times and seasons pass along under thy feet 
jo go and come at thy bidding : and as thou didst dignify our 
fathers' days with many revelations above all the foregoing 
iges, since thou tookest the flesh ; so thou canst vouchsafe 
bo us (though unworthy) as large a portion of thy Spirit as 
thou pleasest: for who shall prejudice thy all-governing 
will? seeing the power of thy grace is not passed away with 
the primitive times, as fond and faithless men imagine, but 
thy kingdom is now at hand, and thou standing at the door. 
Come forth out of thy royal chambers, O Prince of all the 
kings of the earth ! put on the visible robes of thy imperial 
majesty, take up that unlimited sceptre which thy Almighty 
Father hath bequeathed thee ; for now the voice of thy bride 
calls thee, and all creatures sigh to be renewed!"* 

One other passage, written in a different vein, and disposing 
of the episcopalian claim to the right of ordination, must also 
be presented to the reader before dismissing the " Animadver- 
sions upon the Remonstrants' Defence." " As for ordination, 
what is it, but the laying on of hands, an outward sign or 
symbol of admission ? It creates nothing, it confers nothing ; 
it is the inward calling of God that makes a minister, and his 
own painful study and diligence that manures and improves 
his ministerial gifts. In the primitive times, many, before 
ever they had received ordination from the apostles, had done 
* Prose Works, voL iii. pp. 70, 72. 


the church noble service, as Apollos and others. It k tat 
an orderly form of receiving a man already fitted, and ad- 
mitting to him a particular charge; the employment d 
preaching is as holy, and far more excellent; the care ili 
and judgment to be used in the winning of souls, which ■ 
thought to be sufficient in every worthy minister, is an abfliiy 
above that which is required in ordination ; for many mtj 
be able to judge who is fit to be made a minister, that wodi 
not be found fit to be made ministers themselves ; as it wfll 
not be denied that he may be the competent judge of a nest 
picture, or elegant poem, that cannot limn the like. Why, 
therefore, wo should constitute a superior order in the chunk 
to perform an office which is not only every minister's func- 
tion, but inferior also to that which he has a confessed right 
to, and why this superiority should remain thus usurped, 
some wise Epimenides tell us. Now for jurisdiction, this 
dear saint of the prelates, it will be best to consider, first, 
what it is : that sovereign Lord, who in the discharge of hit 
holy anointment from God the Father, which made him 
supreme bishop of our souls, was so humble as to say, ' Who 
made me a judge, or a divider over ye ? ' hath taught us 
that a churchman's jurisdiction is no more but to watch over 
his flock in season, and out of season, to deal by sweet and 
efficacious instructions, gentle admonitions, and sometimes 
rounder reproofe : against negligence or obstinacy, will be 
required a rousing volley of pastoral threatenings ; against 
a persisting stubbornness, or the fear of a reprobate sense, a 
timely separation from the flock by that interdictive sen- 
tence, lest his conversation unprohibited, or unbranded, 
might breathe a pestilential murrain into the other sheep. 
In sum, his jurisdiction is to see the thriving and prospering 
of that which he hath planted : what other work the pre- 
lates have found for chancellors and suffragans, delegates 
and officials, with all the hell-pestering rabble of siunnen 
and apparitors, is but an invasion upon the temporal magis- 
trate, and affected by them as men that are not ashamed of 


Vhe ensign and banner of antichrist. But true evangelical 
jurisdiction or discipline is no more, as was said, than for a 
minister to see to the thriving and prospering of that which 
lie hath planted. And which is the worthiest work of these 
♦wo— to plant as every minister's office is equally with the 
Iriahops, or to tend that which is planted, which the blind 
and nndiscerning prelates call jurisdiction, and would ap- 
propriate to themselves as a business of higher dignity? 
Have patience, therefore, a little, and hear a law case. A 
certain man of large possessions had a fair garden, and kept 
therein an honest and laborious servant, whose skill and pro- 
fession was to set or sow all wholesome herbs, and delightful 
flowers, according to every season, and whatever else was to 
be done in a well-husbanded nursery of plants and fruits. 
Now, when the time was come that he should cut his hedges, 
prune his trees, look to his tender slips, and pluck up the 
weeds that hindered their growth, he gets him up by 
break of day, and makes account to do what was needful in 
his garden : and who would think that any other should 
know better than he how the day's work was to be spent ? 
Yet, for all this, there comes another strange gardener, that 
never knew the soil, never handled a dibble or spade, to set 
the least potherb that grew there, much less had endured an 
hour's sweat or chilliness, and yet challenges as his right 
the binding or unbinding of every flower, the clipping of 
every bush, the weeding and worming of every bed, both in 
that and all other gardens thereabout. The honest gardener, 
that ever since the day-peep, till now the sun was grown 
somewhat rank, had wrought painfully about his banks and 
seedplots, at his commanding voice turns suddenly about 
with some wonder; and although he could have well be- 
teemed to have thanked him for the ease he proffered, yet, 
loving his own handywork, modestly refused him ; telling 
him withal, that, for his part, if he had thought much of his 
own pains, he could for once have committed the work to 
one of his fellow-labourers, forasmuch as it is well known 


to be a matter of less skill and less labour to keep a gardes 
handsome, than it is to plant it, or contrive it; and that to 
had already performed himself. No, said the stranger, tin 
is neither for you nor your fellows to meddle with, but fir 
me only, that am for this purpose in dignity far aboTe yon; 
and the provision which the lord of the soil allows me in this 
office is, and that with good reason, tenfold your wag* 
The gardener smiled, and shook his head; but what was de- 
termined, I cannot tell you till the end of this Parliament"* 

Early in the year 1642 appeared an anonymous reply to 
the " Animadversions/' supposed to have been written by tie 
son of the prelate (Bishop Hall) with whom Milton had 
deajt so unsparingly. It bore the title of "a Modest Con- 
futation against a Slanderous and Scurrilous libel," and 
was evidently written under the strongest impulse rf 
resentment. The writer heaped upon Milton the mat 
atrocious and unfounded calumnies, and the degree of 
malignity he displayed may be estimated by a single 
passage, in which he called upon all Christians to stone 
his opponent " as a miscreant whose impunity would be their 
crime." This drew from Milton his " Apology for Smee- 
tymnuus ; " which was published in the year 1642, and, in ae- 
cordance with the nature of the attacks which occasioned it, 
was to a considerable extent a vindication of himself. Still 
it must ever occupy a high rank among the prose works of 
Milton. " We may well wonder," says Mr. St. John, " that 
out of a gladiatorial controversy of this sanguinary kind, 
anything should have arisen so richly teeming with beauti- 
ful thoughts, so full of youthful and cheering reminiscences-- 
so varied, so polished, so vehemently eloquent, as the 'Apology 
for Smectymnuus/ which, as a noble and justifiable burst of 
egotism, has never, perhaps, in any language been excelled." 

Milton commences by vindicating his right to take the part 
he had adopted in the great controversy of the day, notwith- 
standing his youthful age, and the fact that the object of hi* 
hostility was a system which the State had been wont to 
* Prose Works, vol. iii. pp. 78 — 80. 



cherish and honour. He next justifies the warmth with 
which he had defended religious liberty, by quoting the 
words of "Gregory Nyssen, justifying his asperity in the de- 
fence of his brother Basil. " It was not for himself/' he said, 
" but in the cause of his brother ; and in such cases, perhaps, 
it is worthier pardon to be angry than to be cooler." Then 
having cleared himself from the charges of immorality 
brought against his university life, he thus alludes to his 
subsequent studies : — 

" Thus, from the laureat fraternity of poets, riper years 
and the ceaseless round of study and reading led me to the 
shady spaces of philosophy ; but chiefly to the divine volumes 
of Plato, and his equal, Xenophon : where, if I should tell ye 
what I learnt of chastity and love, I mean that which is truly 
so, whose charming cup is only virtue, which she bears in 
her hand to those who are worthy (the rest are cheated 
with a thick intoxicating potion, which a certain sorceress, 
the abuser of love's name, carries about) ; and how the first 
and chiefest office of love begins and ends in the soul, pro- 
ducing those happy twins of her divine generation, know- 
ledge and virtue. With such abstracted sublimities as these, 
it might be worth your listening, readers, as I may one day 
hope to have ye in a still time, when there shall be no 

His opponents had further reproached him for his satirical 
vein, and for those severities against the prelates which he 
designates " libels." In a passing notice of the first charge, 
he shelters himself under the authority of Horace, alluding 
to two passages, one of which occurs in the tenth satire of 

the first book : — 

" Ridiculum acri 

Fortius et melius magnas plerumque secat res ; " 
and to another in the first satire of the same book : — 

" Quanquam ridentem dicere verum 

Quid vetat? ut pueris olim dant crustula blandi 
Doctores, elementa velint ut discere prima." 
The charge of libelling he thus retorts : — " Neither can 
religion receive any wound by disgrace thrown upon the 


prelates, since religion and they sorely were never in sock 
amity. They rather are the men who have wounded refr 
gion, and their stripes must heal her. I might also tell 
them what Electra, in Sophocles, a wise virgin, answeni 
her wicked mother, who thought herself too violently im- 
proved by her the daughter : — 

" 'T is you that say it, not I ; you do the deeds, 
And your ungodly deeds find me the words." 

If, therefore, the Remonstrant complains of libels, it is be- 
cause he feels them to be right aimed. For I ask again, « 
before in the 'Animadversions/ how long is it since he da- 
relished libels? "We never heard the least mutter offal 
voice against them while they flew abroad without contnl 
or check, defaming the Scots and Puritans." * 

From justifying himself, he next turns to the Defence of 
the Parliament, whom his opponent had similarly slandered. 
This body he vindicates in the following stately passage:— 

" Now although it be a digression from the ensuing matter, 
yet because it shall not be said I am apter to blame othen 
than to make trial myself, and that I may, after this hank 
discord, touch upon a smoother string, awhile to entertain 
myself and him that list, with some more pleasing fit, and not 
the least to testify the gratitude which I owe to those public 
benefactors of their country, for the share I enjoy in the 
common peace and good by their incessant labours ; I shall 
be so troublesome to this disclaimer for once, as to show him 
what he might have better said in their praise ; wherein 1 
must mention only some few things of many, for more fo«» 
that to a digression may not be granted. Although certainly 
their actions are worthy not thus to be spoken of by the way, 
yet if hereafter it befall me to attempt something more 
answerable to their great merits, I perceive how hopeless it 
will be to reach the height of their praises at the accomplish- 
ment of that expectation that waits upon their noble deeds, 
the unfinishing whereof already surpasses what others before 
* Prose Works, vol. m. ^. 133. 


>m have left enacted with their utmost performance 
•ough many ages. And to the end we may be confident 
it what they do proceeds neither from uncertain opinion 
r sudden counsels, but from mature wisdom, deliberate 
tue, and dear affection to the public good, I shall begin 
that which made them likeliest in the eyes of good men 
effect those things for the recovery of decayed religion and 
5 commonwealth, which they who were best minded had 
ig wished for, but few, as the times were then desperate, 
i the courage to hope for. 

" First, therefore, the most of them being either of ancient 
i high nobility, or at least of known and well-reputed an- 
ttry, which is a great advantage towards virtue one way, 
t in respect of wealth, ease, and flattery, which accompany 
dee and tender education, is as much a hindrance another 
iy ; the good which lay before them they took, in imitat- 
r the worthiest of their progenitors : and the evils which 
taulted their younger years by the temptation of riches, 
£h birth, and that usual bringing up, perhaps too favour- 
Le and too remiss, through the strength of an inbred good- 
ss, and with the help of divine grace, that had marked 
3m out for no mean purposes, they nobly overcame. Yet 
d they a greater danger to cope with ; for being trained 
in the knowledge of learning, and sent to those places 
dch were intended to be the seed-plots of piety andsthe 
eral arts, but were become the nurseries of superstition 
i empty speculation, as they were prosperous against 
jse vices which grow upon youth out of idleness and su- 
rfluity, so were they happy in working off the harms of 
sir abused studies and labours ; correcting, by the clear- 
ss of their own judgment, the errors of their misinstruc- 
»n, and were, as David was, wiser than their teachers. 
id although their lot fell into such times, and to be bred 
such places, where if they chanced to be taught anything 
od, or of their own accord had learnt it, they might sea 
at presently untaught them by the custom and VSL exsaax^fc 


of their elders; so far in all probability was their youth 
from being misled by the single power of example, as their 
riper years were known to be unmoved with the baits of pro- 
ferment, and undaunted for any discouragement and terror, 
which appeared often to those that loved religion and their 
native liberty ; which two things God hath inseparably knit 
together, and hath disclosed to us, that they who seek to 
corrupt our religion, are the same that would enthral oar 
civil liberty. 

" Thus, in the midst of all disadvantages and disrespects, 
(some also at last not without imprisonment and open dis- 
graces in the cause of their country,) having given proof of 
themselves to be better made and framed by nature to the 
love and practice of virtue, than others under the holiest 
precepts and best examples have been headstrong and prose 
to vice; and having, in all the trials of a firm ingrafted 
honesty, not oftener buckled in the conflict than given every 
opposition the foil : this, moreover, was added by favour from 
Heaven, as an ornament and happiness to their virtue, that 
it should be neither obscure in the opinion of men, nor eclipsed 
for want of matter equal to illustrate itself; God and man con- 
senting in joint approbation to choose them out as worthiest 
above others to be both the great reformers of the Church 
and the restorers of the commonwealth. Nor did they de- 
ceive that expectation which with the eyes and desires of 
their country was fixed upon them : for no sooner did the 
force of so much united excellence meet in one globe of 
brightness and efficacy, but, encountering the dazzled resist- 
ance of tyranny, they gave not over, though their enemies 
were strong and subtle, till they had laid her grovelling up- 
on the fatal block ; with one stroke winning again our lost 
liberties and charters, which our forefathers, after so many 
battles, could scarce maintain. 

" And meeting next, as I may so resemble, with the se- 
cond life of tyranny, (for she was grown an ambiguous mon- 
ster, and to be slain in two shapes,) guarded with supersti- 
tion, which hath no small power to captivate the minds of 


men otherwise most wise, they neither were taken with her 
mitred hypocrisy, nor terrified with the push of her bestial 
horns, but breaking them, immediately forced her to unbend 
the pontifical brow, and recoil ; which repulse only given to 
the prelates (that we may imagine how happy their removal 
would be) was the producement of such glorious effects and 
consequences in the Church, that if I should compare them 
with, those exploits of highest fame in poems and panegyrics 
of old, I am certain it would but diminish and impair their 
worth, who are now my argument : for those ancient wor- 
thies delivered men from such tyrants as were content to 
enforce only an outward obedience, letting the mind be as 
free as it could ; but these have freed us from a doctrine of ty- 
ranny, that offered violence and corruption even to the inward 
persuasion. They set at liberty nations and cities of men, 
good and bad mixed together ; but these, opening the pri- 
sons and dungeons, called out of darkness and bonds the elect 
martyrs and witnesses of their Redeemer. They restored 
the body to ease and wealth ; but these, the oppressed con- 
science to that freedom which is the chief prerogative of the 
gospel ; taking off these cruel burdens imposed not by neces- 
sity, as other tyrants are wont, or the safeguard of their 
lives, but laid upon our necks by the strange wilfulness and 
wantonness of a needless and jolly persecutor, called Indif- 
ference. Lastly, some of these ancient deliverers have had 
immortal praises for preserving their citizens from a famine 
of corn. But these, by this only repulse of an unholy hier- 
archy, almost in a moment replenished with saving know- 
ledge their country, nigh famished for want of that which 
should feed their souls. All this being done while two 
armies in the field stood gazing on : the one in reverence of 
such nobleness quietly gave back and dislodged ; the other, 
spite of the unruliness and doubted fidelity in some regi- 
ments, was either persuaded or compelled to disband and 
retire home."* 

Towards the conclusion of his performance, Milton's 
* Prose Works, vol. iii. pp. 146 — 148. 


nameless antagonist was induced to interpolate into hb 
calumnious attack a vaunting panegyric on the liturgy, « 
" preserving unity and piety." This elicited the following 
animated reply with reference to unity and piety : — " Nor it 
unity less broken, especially by our liturgy, though this 
author would almost bring the communion of saints to a com- 
munion of liturgical words. For what other reformed church 
holds communion with us by our Liturgy, and does not rather 
dislike it ? And among ourselves, who knows it not to have 
been a perpetual cause of disunion ? Lastly, it hinders piety 
rather than sets it forward, being more apt to weaken the 
spiritual faculties, if the people be not weaned from it in doe 
time ; as the daily pouring in of hot waters quenches the 
natural heat For not only the body and the mind, bat 
also the improvement of God's Spirit, is quickened by using. 
Whereas they who will ever adhere to liturgy, bring them- 
selves in the end to such a pass, by overmuch learning, as to 
lose even the legs of their devotion." 

After some further references to the " errors, tautologies, 
and impertinences" of the Liturgy, he concludes with the 
following appeal: — " Hark ye, prelates, is this your glorious 
mother of England, who, whenas Christ hath taught her to 
pray, thinks it not enough unless she add thereto the teaching 
of Antichrist ? How can we believe ye would refuse to take 
the stipend of Rome, when ye shame not to live upon the 
almsbasket of her prayers ? Will ye persuade us that ye can 
curse Rome from your hearts, when none but Rome must 
teach ye to pray ? Abraham disdained to take so much as 
a thread or shoe-latchet from the king of Sodom, though no 
foe of his, but a wicked king-: and shall we receive our 
prayers at the bounty of our more wicked enemies, whose 
gifts are no gifts, but the instruments of our bane ? Alas ! 
that the Spirit of God should blow as an uncertain wind, 
should so mistake his inspiring, so misbestow his gifts, pro- 
mised only to the elect, that the idolatrous should find words 
acceptable to present to God with, and abound to their 


neighbours, while the true professors of the gospel can find 
nothing of their own worth the constituting, wherewith to 
worship God in public ! Consider if this be to magnify the 
Church of England, and not rather to display her nakedness 
to all the world. 

" If we have indeed given a bill of divorce to popery and 
superstition, why do we not say, as to a divorced wife, 
' Those things which are yours, take them all with you, and 
they shall sweep after you ! ' Why were we not thus wise 
at our parting from Rome ? Ah ! like a crafty adulteress, 
she forgot not all her smooth looks and enticing words at 
her parting: ' Yet keep these letters, these tokens, and these 
few ornaments. I am not all so greedy of what is mine; let 
them preserve with you the memory* — of what I am? No, 
but — ' of what I was ; once fair and lovely in your eyes.' 
Thus did those tender-hearted reformers dotingly suffer 
themselves to be overcome with harlot's language. And she, 
like a witch, but with a contrary policy, did not take some- 
thing of theirs, that she still might have power to bewitch 
them, but for the same intent left something of her own 
behind her. They object that if we must forsake all that is 
Home's, we must bid adieu to our creed; and I had thought 
our creed had been of the apostles, for so it bears title. But 
if it be hers, let her take it. We can want no creed, so 



In the summer of 1643, occurred one of the few known 
events in Milton's private life. We are informed by Philips, 
his nephew and first biographer, that about Whitsuntide he 
took a journey into the country, which no one about him 
supposed to have any other object than that of recreation. 
After a month's absence, however, he returned with a wife, 
having married Mary Powell, the daughter of a gentleman 
residing at Forest Hill, near Shotover, in Oxfordshire, who 
held the commission of the peace. No information that has 
descended to us throws any light upon this extraordinary 
connexion. Not only were the Powells heartily attached 
to the cause of Charles I., but their general habits were as 
inconsistent with the notions of Milton as their political 
bias was with his principles ; for it would appear, from the 
brief accounts we have of them, that they indulged in all 
the gay festivity common among the cavaliers of that day 
So ill-assorted a union was not likely to be productive of 
much happiness to either party. It is probable that the 
studious and religious habits of her husband were dis- 
tasteful to the bride, and perhaps the general character 
of his household was not less so. Having taken a larger 

milton's marriage. 91 

and more commodious house in a court leading from Alders- 
gate-street, he consented to receive into his household some 
other pupils, in addition to his nephews. His aged father, 
also, who, until the spring of 1643, had resided with his 
younger son at Reading, had, on the taking of that town 
"by the Earl of Essex, come to reside with the poet, in the 
enjoyment of whose affectionate attentions he spent the 
remaining four years of his life. 

Whatever may have heen the causes of the young wife's 
distaste, it is certain that at the expiration of one month 
from her entering on her new establishment, she obtained 
his permission to spend the remainder of the summer at her 
father's house. This voluntary separation of herself from 
her husband so soon after her marriage, is a sufficient proof 
of her unfitness for, and probably her unworthiness of, such 
a union. But though her leave of absence extended only to 
Michaelmas, there seems little reason to doubt that from 
the first she contemplated nothing less than the final deser- 
tion of her husband. At the expiration of the time limited 
for her absence, Milton wrote to remind her of her engage- 
ment, but to this, as to several other subsequent letters to 
the same purpose, she never replied. The temporary ascend- 
ancy of the monarch's fortunes, by his victories at Ather- 
ston Moor and Lansdowne, had revived the hopes of his 
adherents, and probably furnished motives to the Powell 
family for repudiating the connexion of one of its members 
with so eminent a champion of the Parliamentary party; 
and the consequence was the contemptuous dismission of a 
messenger whom Milton had sent to accompany his wife to 
her proper home. This outrage upon the natural claims 
and the just authority of a husband, at once wounded and 
incensed the mind* of Milton, who, instead of the conjugal 
happiness he had anticipated, found himself left "with 
nothing belonging to matrimony but its chain." These cir- 
cumstances induced the injured husband to contemplate 
the ultima ratio of a divorce \ and in oxdex to , ^<&ft»fc»\B& 


reputation in so doubtful a matter, and, perhaps, with a 
view to gain the approval of the legislature, he published, 
in 1644, two editions (one anonymously, and one with hii 
name) of a treatise entitled " The Doctrine and Discipline 
of Divorce." This he inscribed, with a stately address, to 
the Parliament of his country. 

The " Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce" is probably, of 
all the prose writings of Milton, the least known, and the 
least likely to obtain a future popularity. Yet, as a compo- 
sition, it is one of the most remarkable that we possess from 
his pen. The subject must be to most men unattractive and 
painful, and under the social regulations of this country, 
and this age, it is to be hoped that comparatively few would 
be led to peruse it by any more earnest motives than those 
which spring from their literary tastes. It evinces the pro- 
foundest mastery of the question, the most learned research, 
a majestic power of diction and illustration, and (if I may 
use the expression) a most spiritual appreciation of that 
delicate passion which sanctifies the bond of marriage.* 

In my notice of this and three succeeding treatises, I shall 
so far desert the general scheme of this biography, as to 
refrain from reproducing his extended arguments in the 
form of analysis, and shall only present a few passages 
which will convey an idea of the pervading tone and tenour 
of the composition. 

* Mr. St. John, the latest editor of Milton's prose works, commits 
himself to a judgment on this subject, in the following words : — 

" These works on Divorce are full of beauty — of poetical descriptions 
of love — of philosophical investigations — of original ideas and 
images. The whole is pervaded and adorned by an enthusiastic 
spirit of poetry, which constitutes in him the vitality of style. All, 
therefore, who can tolerate a little quaintness and plain speaking, 
and who are not averse from being taught by a somewhat dogmatic 
instructor, can read with pleasure Milton's speculations on divorce, 
which are full of sound wisdom, which may serve to enlighten both 
our legislators and philosophers, if they will be modest enough to 
listen and learn." 



His main thesis is thus laid down : — " To remove, therefore, 
f possible, this great and sad oppression, which through 
h.e strictness of a literal interpreting hath invaded and 
listurbed the dearest and most peaceable estate of house- 
lold society, to the overburdening, if not the overwhelming, 
>f many Christians better worth than to be so deserted of 
the Church's considerate care, this position shall be laid 
lown, first proving, then answering, what may be objected 
either from Scripture or light of reason. 

" That indisposition, unfitness, or contrariety of mind, 
irising from a cause in nature unchangeable, hindering, and 
sver likely to hinder, the main benefits of conjugal society, 
which are solace and peace ; is a greater reason of divorce 
than natural frigidity, especially if there be no children, 
md that there be mutual consent." 

Aware that his arguments were destined to encounter 
much opposition and prejudice, he thus seeks to conciliate 
the unbiased attention of his readers : — " It shall be here 
sought by due ways to be made appear, that those words of 
God in the institution, promising a meet help against lone- 
liness, and those words of Christ, that ' his yoke is easy, 
and his burden light,' were not spoken in vain : for if 
the knot of marriage may in no case be dissolved but for 
adultery, all the burdens and services of the law are not so 
intolerable. This only is desired of them who are minded 
to judge hardly of thus maintaining, that they would be 
still, and hear all out, nor think it equal to answer delibe- 
rate reason with sudden heat and noise ; remembering this, 
that many truths now of reverend esteem and credit, had 
their birth and beginning once from singular and private 
thoughts, while the most of men were otherwise possessed ; 
and had the fete at first to be generally exploded and 
exclaimed on by many violent opposers : yet I may err, 
perhaps, in soothing myself, that this present truth revived 
will deserve on all hands to be not sinisterly received, in 
that it undertakes the cure of an inveterate disease crept 


into the best part of human society ; and to do this with 
no smarting corrosive, but a smooth and pleasing lessen, 
which received both the virtue to soften and dispel rooted 
and knotty sorrows, and without enchantment, if that be 
feared, or spell used, hath regard at once both to serioos 
piety and upright honesty ; that tends to the redeeming sad 
restoring of none but such as are the object of compassion, 
having in an ill hour hampered themselves, to the utter 
dispatch of all their most beloved comforts and repose far 
this life's term. But if we shall obstinately dislike this new 
overture of unexpected ease and recovery, what remains 
but to deplore the frowardness of our hopeless condition, 
which neither can endure the estate we are in, nor admit of 
remedy either sharp or sweet ? Sharp we ourselves distaste; 
and sweet, under whose hands we are, is scrupled and sus- 
pected as too luscious. In such a posture Christ found the 
Jews, who were neither won with the austerity of John the 
Baptist, and thought it too much licence to follow freely the 
charming pipe of him who sounded and proclaimed liberty 
and relief to all distresses : yet truth in some age or other 
will find her witness, and shall be justified at last by her 
own children." 

With reference to the effect of the existing system upon 
personal religion, he has the following observations:— 
" As those priests of old were not to be long in sorrow, or if 
they were, they could not rightly execute their function ; so 
every true Christian in a higher order of priesthood, is 
a person dedicate to joy and peace, offering himself a lively 
sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, and there is no 
Christian duty that is not to be seasoned and set off with 
cheerishness ; which in a thousand outward and intermit- 
ting crosses may yet be done well, as in this vale of tears : 
but in such a bosom affliction as this, crushing the very 
foundation of his inmost nature, when he shall be forced to 
love against a possibility, and to use a dissimulation against 
his soul in the perpetual and ceaseless duties of a husband; 


doubtless his whole duty of serving God must needs be 
blurred and tainted with a sod unpreparedness and dejec- 
tion of spirit, wherein God has no delight. Who sees not, 
therefore, how much more Christianity it would be to break 
by divorce that which is more broken by undue and forcible 
keeping, rather than ' to cover the altar of the Lord with 
continual tears, so that he regardeth not the offering any 
more/ rather than that the whole worship of a Christian man's 
life should languish and fade away beneath the weight of an 
immeasurable grief and discouragement?" 

"Nothing more than disturbance of mind suspends us 
from approaching to God ; such a disturbance especially, as 
both assaults our faith and trust in God's providence, and 
ends, if there be not a miracle of virtue on either side, not 
only in bitterness and wrath, the canker of devotion, but in 
a desperate and vicious carelessness, when he sees himself, 
without fault of his, trained by a deceitful bait into a snare 
of misery, betrayed by an alluring ordinance, and then 
made the thrall of heaviness and discomfort by an undi- 
vorcing law of God, as he erroneously thinks, but of man's 
iniquity, as the truth is ; for that God prefers the free and 
cheerful worship of a Christian, before the grievance and 
exacted observance of an unhappy marriage, besides that 
the general maxims of religion assure us, will be more 
manifest by drawing a parallel argument from the ground 
of divorcing an idolatress, which was, lest he should alienate 
his heart from the true worship of God: and, what differ- 
ence is there whether she pervert him to superstition by 
her enticing sorcery, or disenable him in the whole service 
of God through the disturbance of her unhelpful and unfit 
society ; and so drive him at last, through murmuring and 
despair, to thoughts of atheism ? Neither doth it lessen the 
cause of separating, m that the one willingly allures him 
from the faith, the other perhaps unwillingly drives him ; 
for in the account of God it comes all to one, that the wife 
loses him a servant : and therefore, by all the united force of 


the Decalogue, she ought to be disbanded, unless we mat 
set marriage above God and charity, which is the doctrine 
of devils, no less than forbidding to marry" 

In the following passage he applies to this subject 
his views of Christian liberty : — 

" And, indeed, the papists, who are the strictest forbidden 
of divorce, are the easiest libertines to admit of grosxit 
uncleanness ; as if they had a design by making wedlock I 
supportless yoke, to violate it most, under colour of preserv- 
ing it most inviolable ; and withal delighting (as their 
mystery is) to make men the day labourers of their own 
afflictions, as if there were such a scarcity of miseries firai 
abroad, that we should be made to melt our choicest home 
blessings, and coin them into crosses, for want whereby 
to hold commerce with patience. If any, therefore, who 
shall hap to read this discourse, hath been through misad- 
venture ill engaged in this contracted evil here complained 
of, and finds the fits and workings of a high impatience 
frequently upon him ; of all those wild words which men 
in misery think to ease themselves by uttering, let him not 
open his lips against the providence of Heaven,* or tax the 
ways of God and his divine truth ; for they are equal, easy, 
and not burdensome ; nor do they ever cross the just and 
reasonable desires of men, nor involve this our portion of 
mortal life into a necessity of sadness and malcontent, by 
laws commanding over the unreducible antipathies of nature, 
sooner or later found, but allow us to remedy and shake off 
those evils into which human error hath led us through the 

* In this eloquent passage we discover the same train of thought 
which occurs in the opening passage of the " Paradise Lost:" — 

" What in me is dark, 
Illumine ; what is low, raise and support : 
That to the height of this great argument 
I may assert eternal Providence, 
And justify the ways of God to men." 


midst of our beet intentions, and to support our incident 
extremities by that authentic precept of sovereign charity, 
whose grand commission is to do and to dispose over all the 
ordinances of God to man, that love and' truth may advance 
each other to everlasting. While we, literally superstitious, 
through customary faintness of heart, not venturing to 
.pierce with our free thoughts into the full latitude of nature 
and religion, abandon ourselves to serve under the tyranny 
of usurped opinions ; suffering those ordinances which were 
allotted to our solace and reviving, to trample over us, and 
hale us into a multitude of sorrows, which God never meant 
us. And where he sets us in a fair allowance of way, with 
honest liberty and prudence to our guard, we never leave 
subtilizing and casuisting till we have straitened and pared 
that liberal path into a razor's edge to walk on ; between a 
precipice of unnecessary mischief on either side, and starting 
at every false alarm, we do not know which way to set a 
foot forward with manly confidence and Christian resolution, 
through the confused ringing in our ears of panic scruples 
and amazements."* 

He concludes the treatise with the following passage : — 
** Let not, therefore, the frailty of man go on thus inventing 
needless troubles to itself, to groan under the false imagina- 
tion of a strictness never imposed from above ; enjoining 
that for duty which is an impossible and vain supereroga- 
ting. ' Be not righteous overmuch,' is the counsel of Eccle- 
siastes; 'whyshouldst thou destroy thyself?' Let us not 
be thus over-curious to strain at atoms, and yet to stop 
every vent and cranny of permissive liberty, lest nature, 
wanting those needful pores and breathing-places, which 
God hath not debarred our weakness, either suddenly break 
out into some wide rupture of open vice and frantic heresy, 
or else inwardly fester with repining and blasphemous 
thoughts, under an unreasonable and fruitless rigour of 
unwarranted law. Against which evils nothing can more 
• Prose Works, voL iii. pp. 802, 2d8. 



beseem the religion of the church, or the wisdom of the 
state, than to consider timely and provide. And in so daa% 
let them not doubt but they shall vindicate the misrepnted 
honour of God and his great Lawgiver, by suffering him Id 
give his own laws according to the condition of man'i 
nature best known to him, without the unsufferable impat- 
ation of dispensing legally with many ages of ratified 
adultery. They shall recover the misattended words of 
Christ to the sincerity of their true sense from manifold 
contradictions, and shall open them with the key of charity. 
Many helpless Christians they shall raise from the depths of 
sadness and distress, utterly unfitted as they are to serve 
God or man: many they shall reclaim from obscure and 
giddy sects, many regain from dissolute and brutish licence, 
many from desperate hardness, if ever they were justly 
pleaded. They shall set free many daughters of Israel not 
wanting much of her sad plight whom ( Satan had bound 
eighteen years/ Man they shall restore to his just dignity 
and prerogative in nature, preferring the soul's free peace 
before the promiscuous draining of a carnal rage. Marriage, 
from a perilous hazard and snare, they shall reduce to be a 
more certain haven and retirement of happy society ; when 
ihey shall judge according to God and Moses, (and how not 
then according to Christ,) when they shall judge it more 
wisdom and goodness to break that covenant seemingly, and 
keep it really, than by compulsion of law to keep it seemingly, 
and by compulsion of blameless nature to break it really, at 
least if it were ever truly joined. The vigour of discipline 
they may then turn with better success upon the prostitute 
looseness of the times, when men, finding in themselves the 
infirmities of former ages, shall be constrained above the 
gift of God in them to unprofitable and impossible obserr- 
ances, never required from the civilest, the wisest, the 
holiest nations, whose other excellencies in moral virtue 
they never yet could equal. Last of all, to those whose 
mind is still to maintain textual restrictions, whereof the 


bare sound cannot consist sometimes with humanity, much 
less with charity ; I would ever answer by putting them in 
remembrance of a command above all commands, which 
they seem to have forgot, and who spake it : in comparison 
whereof, this which they so exalt is but a petty and subor- 
dinate precept. * Let them go/ therefore, with whom I am 
loathe to couple them, yet they will needs run into the same 
blindness with the pharisees ; * let them go therefore,' and 
consider well what this lesson means, ' I will have mercy 
and not sacrifice :' for on that * saying all the law and pro- 
phets depend ;' much more the gospel, whose end and excel- 
lence is mercy and peace. Or if tjiey cannot learn that, 
how will they hear this ? which yet I shall not doubt to 
leave with them as a conclusion, that God the Son hath 
put all other things under his own feet, but his command- 
ments he hath left all under the feet of charity."* 

Shortly after the publication of this treatise, Milton fol- 
lowed it with another, which was also addressed to the 
Parliament, and entitled, " The Judgment of Martin Bucer 
concerning Divorce." This consists of an analysis and 
translation of Bucer's Second Book " Of the Kingdom of 
Christ," addressed to Edward VI., to which Milton pre- 
fixes the testimonies of Calvin, Beza, and other eminent 
men to Bucer's learning and piety, and especially to his 
diligence in the exposition of Scripture, f 

* Prose Works, vol. iii. pp. 372, 273. 

+ Bucer was born near Strasburg, in 1491, and educated at Heidel- 
berg, having entered the order of St. Dominick. The change of 
opinion which determined the tenor of his life was occasioned by 
reading some writings of Erasmus and Luther, and he adopted the 
views of the latter in 1521, in accordance with which he taught 
divinity for twenty years at Strasburg. At the Diet of Augsburg, he 
vehemently opposed the system of doctrine called the interim, invi- 
diously drawn up by Charles V. for the temporary regulation of reli 
gious faith in Germany, until a free General Council could be held. 
This course exposed him to so much difficulty and danger that he 
accepted an invitation from Cranmer to settle in England, where he 
was appointed to teach theology at Cambridge. King Edwaxd. \2bfc 
Sixth having heard that Bucer's health suffered, iox ^ntxtX. <& ^Qrettaaav 


In the following year, 1645, Milton published two other 
tracts on Divorce ; the one entitled " Tetrachordon," which 
was an exposition of the four passages of Scripture* which 
are supposed most distinctly to affirm the views which 
Milton opposed ; and the other, " Colasterion, w f a aeyeK 
reply to an anonymous antagonist. This latter tract closed 
the controversy. Of the sincerity with which Milton held 
his opinions on marriage and divorce no one can entertain 
a doubt, any more than of the astonishing' ability and 
learning with which he supported them. On the vexed 
question itself there ever have been, and probably ever will 
be, differences of opinion among virtuous men, which it is 
not part of the design of these pages to attempt to 

stove, sent him £20 to procure one. In return for this attention he 
wrote the work entitled " Of the Kingdom of Christ," for the King's 
own use. ' Bncer died at Cambridge early in the year 1550, and was 
buried in St. Mary's with great honour ; but five years after, when in- 
quisitors were sent by Mary to Cambridge, his remains were exhumed, 
and ignominiously burned in the Market-place. 

* These are, Gen. i 27, 28; Deut. xxiv. 1,2; Matt v. 31, 32, and 
1. Cor. vii. 13, 16. 

♦ The Greek word for a castigation. 



Before detailing the effects produced by the publication 
of the Treatises on Divorce, and the bearing they had upon 
Milton's subsequent career, it is necessary to notice the state 
of parties, and especially of ecclesiastical parties, at this 
period. While the secularity and corruption of the clergy 
had brought the Anglican church into contempt, the tyran- 
nical cruelty of the bishops had excited against it the bit- 
terest feelings of hostility. An attempt was made by the 
House of Commons, in the first parliament of Charles I., 
which met June 18, 1625, to abridge the causes of this 
odium, by restoring those of the clergy who had been 
silenced as Puritans, and moderating non-residences, plu- 
ralities, and commendams. This effort was rendered abor- 
tive by the abrupt dissolution of Parliament, after an 
existence of less than two months. Two years afterwards, 
this spirit of dissatisfaction was greatly increased by the 
publication of a Sermon, at the special command of the king, 
under the title of" Religion and Allegiance," by Dr. Man war- 
ing, In this discourse the preacher maintained, " 1\u& ^Oaa 


king is not bound to observe the laws of the realm, concerning ' 
the subjects' rights and liberties; but that his royal will 
and command, in imposing loans and taxes, without com- 
mon consent, in parliament, doth oblige the subjects' con- 
science upon pain of eternal damnation." The Commons, in 
their indignation, indicated how little they understood the 
principles of true liberty, by visiting the offender wife 
a sentence, a fine, imprisonment, and suspension, and the 
breach between the king and his Parliament was much 
widened by his not only releasing and pardoning his 
parasite, but by rewarding him with the gift of a living in 
Essex, in addition to that of St. Giles's in the Fields, which 
he already held. 

Meanwhile the power and malignity of Laud increased 
together; and the absolute devastation committed by the two 
unconstitutional courts — those of the High Commission and 
the Star Chamber — rivalled the atrocities of the Popish 
Inquisition. Multitudes of Dissenters were driven to emi- 
grate to what were then the wilds of the North Ame- 
rican continent, many of whom perished there by famine. 
Numerous petitions were now presented for the aboli- 
tion of the obnoxious courts, and of episcopacy itself, which 
was scarcely less detested. The second expedition against 
the Scotch, popularly called the bishops' war, in 1640, 
met with the ill success which it deserved ; it was closed by 
the humiliating treaty of Rippon, and the 3rd of November 
in that year witnessed the memorable meeting of the Long 
Parliament. In this, the petitions setting forth the cor- 
ruptions and praying for the abolition of the episcopacy, 
were redoubled. One of these was signed by fifteen thousand 
citizens of London, and another, known as the ministers 1 
petition, signed by seven hundred clergymen. These were 
met by counter petitions, procured by the influence of the 
aristocracy and the bishops, to which no fewer than one hun- 
dred thousand names are said to have been attached. Are- 
solution passed the House of Commons, " That the legislative 


ind judicial power of bishops in the House of Peers, in par- 
iament, is a great hinderance to the discharge of their 
ipiritual functions, prejudicial to the commonwealth,-and fit 
» be taken away by bill." On the following day a similar 
rote was passed respecting their being in the commission of 
iie peace, or having any judicial power in the Star Chamber, 
vr in any civil court, and, on the 26th of the same month, 
heir employment as privy councillors, or in any other tem- 
x>ral offices, was also condemned." * 

On this resolution a bill was founded, the object of which 
was to exclude the bishops from the legislature, and to dis- 
qualify them from all administrative offices of a similar 
tind. After encountering a strong opposition in the House 
>f Lords, it was met by four resolutions, the purpose of 
which was, to exclude the clergy from the Star Chamber, 
the Privy Council, and other secular offices, but to continue 
to them their privilege of sitting in the Upper House ; the 
Commons objected to this exception, and the bill was ulti- 
nately lost. A second and more sweeping measure was 
within a few days brought under the consideration of the 
Bouse of Commons; it contemplated no less than "the 
utter abolishing and taking away of all archbishops, bishops, 
their chancellors and commissaries ; deans, deans and chap- 
ters; archdeacons, prebendaries, chanters, canons, and all 
>ther their under officers." Political events, however, inter- 
posed delays, which led to the abandonment of this measure, 
though the spirit by which it was dictated remained 

Next followed an' impeachment, in the name of the Com- 
mons, of thirteen of the bishops, for having made and pro- 
mulgated, in the convocation of 1640, divers canons, hostile 
' to the King's prerogative, to the fundamental laws and 
statutes of the realm, to the rights of Parliament, and to 
the property and liberty of the subject." But here again 

• Dr. Price's History of Protestant Nonconformity ,^oV\i.^Al^, 


the supporters of episcopacy adopted the Victorians policy of 
delay, and at once balked and exasperated the resolves & 1 
the people. 

Meanwhile the controversial writings of Milton, whkk 
have already been noticed, had prodnced a marked d 
npon the parliament and the country; and in so far as ttoy 
argumentativery demolished episcopacy, they had I 
hailed with delight by the Presbyterians, both Scotch tad 
English, whose repugnance to that form of church govern- 
ment had been confirmed and intensified, in the one case by 
the outrages which had been committed on a religion inter- 
twined with the deepest sentiments of nationality ; and m 
the other, by those almost vindictive feelings which persecu- 
tion engenders, and which piety itself has seldom prevailed 
to control. 

Unhappily for the cause of religious freedom in this and, 
perhaps, in every subsequent age, the bitter aversion of the 
Presbyterians to episcopacy was unconnected with any 
enlarged love of religious freedom, and extended witfc 
sectarian acrimony to Christians of every communion bat 
their own. The prevalent sentiments of that denomination 
shall be described in the language of Dr. Price ; and in 
quoting it, I take the opportunity of saying that his history 
of Protestant Nonconformity, by its great research, its judi- 
cious discrimination, the enlightened views which it ex- 
hibits, and the expansive candour and catholicity of senti- 
ment which pervades it, commends itself as by far the most 
valuable work we possess in this department of ecclesias- 
tical literature. " The Scotch," the Doctor observes, " were 
bigotedly devoted to the Presbyterian form of ecclesiastical 
government. It had been erected on the ruins of Popery 
by Knox, the most fearless and masculine of modern 
reformers, and had been endeared to the nation by the 
fearful struggle which they made on its behalf. What 
James had contemplated, Charles commissioned Laud to 
achieve; and the disciples of Presbytery groaned beneath 


bis heartless policy. The sufferings inflicted in the cause of 
episcopacy naturally engendered an unconquerable aversion 
to it. The people loathed it as a disguised and virulent 
form of Popery, and at length wrested from the reluctant 
hand of Charles the recognition of their heloved and more 
simple polity. Unhappily, however, the Presbyterians of 
Scotland had not learned wisdom from their sufferings. 
Their passions were inflamed without their views being 
rectified ; and they came forth from the school of adversity 
as narrow-minded and intolerant as any of the bishops. 
Hence arose a great difficulty in the negociations of the 
Parliament with their brethren in Scotland." 

The latter insisted on the ecclesiastical government of 
England being conformed to their own platform, and re- 
quired the enforcement of penal laws against all Dissenters. 
The General Assembly, in a communication to the English 
Parliament, after referring to the request of the Scotch 
commissioners, in the late treaty for peace, " That in all 
His Majesty's dominions there might be one confession of 
faith, one directory of worship, one public catechism, and 
one form of church government ;" and that, " the names of 
heresies and sects, puritans, conformists, separatists, ana- 
baptists, &c, which do rend asunder the bowels both of kirk 
and kingdom," might be suppressed, proceeded to declare 
that they are encouraged to renew the proposition made by 
the forenamed commissioners, for beginning the work of 
reformation at the uniformity of kirk government. "For 
what hope," say they, " can there be of unity in religion, 
of one confession of faith, one form of worship, and one 
catechism, till there be first one form of ecclesiastical go- 
vernment : yea, what hope can the Kingdom and Kirk of 
Scotland have of a firm and durable peace, till the prelacy, 
which hath been the main cause of their miseries and 
troubles, first and last, be plucked up, root and branch, as a 
plant which God hath not planted, and from which no 
better fruit ean be expected, than such sour grapes as this 


day set on edge the kingdom of England ? The prektkil 
hierarchy being put out of the way, the work will be eaiy, 
without forcing any conscience, to settle in England tk 
government of the reformed kirks of assemblies." 

In conformity with an agreement made between the Pn> 
liament and the Scotch Presbyterians, the memorable West- 
minster Assembly was convened in the summer of 1641 
In this the Presbyterians were predominant, alike in nam- 
bers and in parliamentary and popular influence, and tie 
intolerance of their proceedings was such, as to convince all 
true lovers of freedom that their ascendency, in place of tfaft 
episcopal hierarchy, would be not an emancipation, but t 
change of yokes and taskmasters. " They aimed," says Dr. 
Price, " at power rather than at liberty ; and in resisting 
the encroachments of the hierarchy, sought to establish that 
of the kirk. Could they have effected their object, an iroa- 
hearted uniformity would have been imposed on the nation.' 
The rites of religion would have been enforced with minute 
scrupulosity ; but its generous impulses and voluntary move- 
ments would have been wholly crushed. Baxter was not 
insensible to this defect, and he has portrayed it with a 
fidelity which gives the greater weight to his approving 
testimony. Happily for the interests of religion, there waa 
another party in the assembly, the members of which added 
to the personal virtues and ministerial diligence of the 
presbyterians more expansive views and a more liberal 
creed. They were known by the name of Independents, 
and had for some time a very arduous and perplexing duty 
to perform. Their numbers were at first so limited, as to 
present but little ground to hope that they would be able 
successfully to resist the scheme of the presbyterians ; but 
what they wanted in numerical strength was supplied by 
the consummate skill and ability of their leaders."* 

It was during the session of the Westminster Assembly, 
thus composed, whose proceedings were characterized by 
t History of Protestant Nonconformity, p. 254. 


xtremes of folly and wisdom, of enlightened discussion 
d of narrow-minded bigotry," that the success of the royal 
ns compelled the parliamentary leaders to seek the sup* 
rt of the Scotch, who regarded the civil war as a religious 
•nggle. The result of the negotiation between the parlia- 
sntary leaders and the Scottish presbyterians was the 
rtrument, commonly known as the Solemn League and 
•venant, a master-piece of spiritual despotism, which, after 
ving been subscribed by the Parliament and the West- 
nster Assembly, was ordered to be enforced upon the 
lole community, lay and clerical, civil and military, and 
e names of all recusants to be returned to the government. 
To complete the intolerance of the presbyterian party, 
minant alike in the assembly and the parliament, the new 
rectory, as it was called, was issued under the sanction of 
th those bodies. The object of this despotic measure was, 
suppress the Book of Common Prayer, and to enforce that 
frfect uniformity of religious observance and worship, at 
bich the presbyterians both in England and Scotland had 
long been aiming. The temper in which the directory 
as enforced may be judged of by the orders issued in 
ugust, 1645.* In dismissing this humiliating portion of 
ir history, I anticipate the course of events to indicate 
lat point at which, when any despotic power arrives, it 
o'erleaps itself," and hastens to its downfall. I refer to 
le parliamentary ordinance passed on the 2nd of May, 
>48, through the influence of the presbyterians, against 
asphemy and heresy. It enacted, that all persons who, 
by preaching, teaching, printing, or writing," denied the 
ristence or attributes of God, the deity of the Son or Holy 
pirit, the existence of two natures in Christ, the efficacy of 
b atonement, the canonical authority of the books of the 
Id and New Testament, the resurrection of the body, or 
le certainty of a future judgment, should, upon conviction, 
the error were not abjured, " suffer the pains of death, as 
i the case of felony, without benefit of the clergy." 
See Dr. Price's Hist. ofProt. Nonconformity,™!, ii.^. S»&, fX «X. 


Such were the position and temper of the presbytentM 
of Great Britain, at a crisis in the history of the Chunk, 
when a right appreciation of the principles of religinn 
freedom, and a pervading spirit of Christian candour tai 
love, would have secured to this empire the lasting and 
blessed heritage of liberty of conscience and perfect ecclea- 
astical equality. Universal history, perhaps, does not record 
a more lamentable loss of a more precious opportunity. 

It is easy to imagine what kind of reception would be 
given, by a class whose ambitious bigotry sought to bead 
the souls of all their fellow-subjects to a uniform compliance 
with their creed and ritual, to such novel doctrines as those 
of Milton on the subject of marriage and divorce. His 
treatise kindled a perfect fury of opposition among the 
clergy and leaders of the presbyterian party. Forgetful of 
the services for which they were indebted to Milton, in their 
struggle against episcopal oppression, they assailed him 
with rabid animosity from the pulpit and the press; and, 
as if to challenge the severest inflictions of that power 
under which they had themselves been made to smart, 
they even caused him to be summoned before the House of 
Lords. From this tribunal he retired unharmed, leaving 
to his opponents the shame of defeat in addition to the 
guilt of persecution. 

Confident in the justice of the views laid down in the 
dissertation last noticed, Milton resolved again to enter into 
the marriage state, and is even said to have made proposab 
to a young lady, the daughter of a Dr. Davis. His ad- 
dresses do not appear to have been favourably received at 
first, and before they could be prosecuted to a successful 
issue, they were interrupted by an unexpected occur- 
rence. The royal cause had met with its fatal disaster 
on Nascby field, and the known adherents of Charles were 
consequently placed in a precarious and alarming position. 
Among these were the family of Milton's wife, who now. 
says Dr. Symmons, became " sensible of the folly of their 
conduct, and solicitous to propitiate \3ha Te3eotai&i& & m 


injured husband, whose assistance might now probably be 
immediately requisite for their protection or subsistence. 
The plan for the accomplishment of their purposes was con- 
ceived and executed with successful ingenuity. Combining 
with his Mends, who concurred in the wish for a reconcili- 
ation between the pair who had been united at the altar, 
they watched our author's visits, and, as he was in the house 
of a relation, they stationed his wife in an inner apartment, 
with instructions to appear at the proper time, and to sup- 
plicate for his pardon upon her knees. Faithful to the lesson 
ef her Mends, she sustained her part with skill, and probably 
with feeling. The scene was surprising, and the resistance 
of Milton, which seemed firm only for a moment, fell before 
its weighty effect. Yielding to the entreaties of beauty, 
and perhaps also to the recurrence of love, what he ap- 
peared to concede only to the solicitations of his Mends, 
and dismissing every irritating recollection from his bosom, 
he re-admitted the wife who had deserted and insulted him 
into the full possession of his affections. Not satisfied with 
this signal triumph over his resentment, he extended his 
placability to those who were the abettors, if not the insti- 
gators, of her offence ; and, receiving her parents and family 
under his roof, he protected and maintained them in this 
hour of their danger and distress. If his interest with the 
victorious party was unable to obtain complete immunity 
for his royalist connexions, it availed to save them from ruin, 
and to preserve the bulk of a property from which he was 
destined to receive not even the stipulated fortune of his 
wife. Conduct of so high a character, the offspring of a 
large and feeling heart, is above the ornament of any 
laboured panegyric. Let the facts, in the intercourse of 
Milton with the Powells, be placed distinctly and at once 
in our view, and nothing but atrocious prejudice can with- 
hold us from admiring the magnanimity of the former, and 
from despising, while we pity, the meanness of the latter."* 
* Symmons's Life of Milton, pp. 176, 11$. 


Finding that his house in Aldersgate-street was too small 
for his establishment, which was now increased by tk 
return of his wife, he hired a more spacious residence k 
Barbican.* Even this soon proved not too large for his re- 
quirements ; for, not only did his wife's parents seek a 
asylum under his roof, but also a numerous train of brotbcn 
and sisters, all of whom continued with him until after kb 
father's death, which occurred in 1647, when the faarilj 
property was restored to them by an arrangement with tte 
Government. It is a striking proof of the irrepressible ae- 
tivity of Milton's mind, that, amidst the public convulsion 
and domestic anxiety of the time, he could find eitiur 
leisure or inclination for the literary pursuits in which h 
engaged. Yet it was in the year 1644 that he produced 
his "Treatise on Education," as well as the greatest of all Mi 
productions in prose, entitled, " Areopagitica, a Speech fa 
the Liberty of Unlicensed Speaking." 

The treatise on education was addressed to his friend, 
Master Samuel HartKb, and was occasioned by Miltwft 
conviction, and, indeed, his experience of the cramped, bar- 
barous, and almost useless style of education which thea 
prevailed in our public schools and universities, and which, 
even in our own day, is but slowly and reluctantly retiring 
before the march of enlightened reform. It has been 
variously commented upon by the biographers of Milton. 
Dr. Symmons describes it "as calculated only to amua 
the fancy, while it would be found by experience to disap- 
point the expectation." Mr. Milford, however, takes a dft 
ferent view. " The system of education which he adopted 

* " I cannot but remark," says Dr. Johnson, " a kind of respect 
perhaps unconsciously, paid to this great man by his biographers ; 
every house in which he resided is historically mentioned, as if it 
were an iDJury to neglect naming any place that he honoured by to 
presence." Indeed it is known that foreigners of distinction gratified 
their curiosity, during the life of Milton, by visiting the house b 
Bread-street where he was born. 


was deep and comprehensive ; it promised to teach science 
with language, or rather to make the study of languages 
subservient to the acquisition of scientific knowledge. Dr. 
Johnson has severely censured this method of instruction, 
but with arguments that might successfully be met. The 
plan recommended by the authority of Milton seems to be 
chiefly liable to objection from being too extensive." 

Milton commences by stating his own views of the great 
purpose of education, and of the inadequacy of existing in- 
stitutions to fulfil it. " The end then of learning," he says, 
" is to repair the ruins of our first parents, by regaining to 
know God aright, and out of that knowledge to love him, to 
imitate him, to be like him, as we may the nearest by pos- 
sessing our souls of true virtue, which being united to the 
heavenly grace of faith, makes up the highest perfection. 
But because our understanding cannot in this body found 
itself but on sensible things, nor arrive so clearly to the 
knowledge of God and things invisible, as by orderly con- 
ning over the visible and inferior creature, the same method 
is necessarily to be followed in all discreet teaching. And 
seeing every nation affords not experience and tradition 
enough for all kinds of learning, therefore we are chiefly 
taught the languages of those people who have at any time 
been most industrious after wisdom; so that language is 
but the instrument conveying to us things useful to be 
known. And though a linguist should pride himself to 
have all the tongues that Babel cleft the world into, yet, if 
he have not studied the solid things in them, as well as the 
words and lexicons, he were nothing so much to be esteemed 
a learned man, as any yeoman or tradesman competently 
wise in his mother dialect only. 

"Hence appear the many mistakes which have made 
learning generally so unpleasing and so unsuccessful. First, 
we do amiss to spend seven or eight years merely in scrap- 
ing together so much miserable Latin and Greek, as might 


be learned otherwise easily and delightfully in one year.* 
And that which casts our proficiency therein so much 
behind, is our time lost partly in too oft idle vacancies graft 
both to schools and universities; partly in a preposterou 
exaction, forcing the empty wits of children to compos? 
themes, verses, and orations, which are the acts of ripest 
judgment, and the final work of a head filled, by long read- 
ing and observing, with elegant maxims and copious inven- 
tion. These are not matters to be wrung from, poor strip- 
lings, like blood out of the nose, or the plucking of untimely 
fruit * * * * 

" And for the usual method of teaching arts, I deem it to 
be an old error of universities, not yet well recovered from 
the scholastic grossness of barbarous ages, that instead of be- 
ginning with arts most easy, (and those be such as are most 
obvious to the sense,) they present their young unmatricu- 
lated novices, at first coming, with the most intellective ab- 
stractions of logic and metaphysics ; so that they, having 
but newly left those grammatic flats and shallows, where 
they stuck unreasonably to learn a few words with lament- 
able construction, and now on the sudden transported under 
another climate, to be tossed and turmoiled with their unbal- 
lasted wits in fathomless and unquiet deeps of controversy, 
do for the most part grow into hatred and contempt of learn- 
ing, mocked and deluded all this while with ragged notions 
and babblement, while they expected worthy and delightful 
knowledge." t 

Having thus indicated the main defects of university edu- 
cation, Milton thus enters on the development of his pro- 
jected reforms. " I shall detain you now no longer in the 
demonstration of what we should not do, but straight con- 
duct you to a hill-side, where I will point you out tie right 
path of a virtuous and noble education ; laborious indeed at 

* On this subject, see Locke's Treatise on Education, § 162—177. 
Works, folio edition, vol. iii. p. 72, seq. 
i Prose Works, vol. iii. pp. 404, 466. 


the first ascent, bat else so smooth, so green, so fall of 
goodly prospect, and melodious sounds on every side, that 
the harp of Orpheus was not more charming.* I doubt not 
bat ye shall have more ado to drive our dullest and laziest 
youth, our stocks and stubs, from the infinite desire of such 
a happy nurture, than we have now to hale and drag our 
choicest and hopefullest wits to that asinine feast of sow- 
thistles and brambles, which is commonly set before them 
as all the food and entertainment of their tenderest and 
most dodble age. I call, therefore, a complete and generous 
education, that which fits a man to perform justly, skilfully, 
and magnanimously all the offices, both private and public, 
of peace and war. And how all this may be done between 
twelve and one and twenty, less time than is now be- 
stowed in pure trifling at grammar and sophistry, is to be 
thus ordered."! 

It is not surprising that Milton's plan should have been 
condemned as too extensive to be practicable, for it em- 
braces nearly every branch of human knowledge. Com- 
mencing with grammar, it leads the student through the 
Latin classics, beginning with those which convey some 
kind of scientific or economical knowledge ; at the same 
time acquiring the knowledge of the " principles of arith- 
metic, geometry, astronomy, and geography, with a general 
compact of physics, they may descend in mathematics to 
the instrumental science of trigonometry, and from thence 
to fortification, architecture, enginery, or navigation. And 
in natural philosophy they may proceed leisurely from the 
history of meteors, minerals, plants, and living creatures, as 
far as anatomy." He continues his plan through the art of 

• He had already, in Comas, described the delight derivable from 
the study of philosophy: 

"How charming is divine philosophy! 
Not harsh and crabbed, as dull fools suppose, 
But musical as is Apollo's lute, 
And a perpetual feast of nectared sweets, 
Where no crude surfeit reigns." 

♦ Prose Works, vol. iii. p. 467. 


medicine, and natural science generally, and those Lata 
poets who especially treat on similar subjects, and kat 
come the highest departments of study, — ethics, politin, 
theology, and logic. This he connects throughout wifa • 
system of physical and military training, recommending sj 
a principal relaxation, " the solemn and divine b^ir^iM 
of music" In concluding his treatise, he himself seem to 
have been struck, on a retrospect, with the almost pre- 
sumptuous vastness of his scheme. " I believe," he myt, 
"that this is not a bow for every man to shoot in, that 
counts himself a teacher ; but will require sinews ahnsi 
equal to those which Homer gave Ulysses ; yet I am wdtt 
persuaded that it may prove much more easy in the assaj, 
than it now seems at distance, and much more illustriotB." 



The intolerance of the presbyterians, armed with the 
powers of a parliamentary majority, was now mimicking 
the most despotic acts of the prelacy : they attempted the 
forcible suppression of all opinions, political and religions, 
lrat their own, and even essayed the impossible task of 
damming np the great channel of mental communication 
by holding the press in control. Milton's enlightened 
mind was not slow to perceive that this course involved a 
fatuity analogous to that of the Eastern despot who lashed 
the waves, and threw fetters into the rebellious ocean. He 
further saw that the sufferings which this penal system in- 
flicted on individuals were not to be compared with the 
evils of intellectual stagnation, political decay, and moral 
death which it shed on nations. To these sentiments we 
owe the masterpiece of Milton, — the "Address to the Parlia- 
ment in favour of the Liberty of Unlicensed Printing," of 
which, in accordance with the plan of this volume, an 
analysis is now to be presented. 

He commences with a stately eulogy upon the Parlia- 
ment; he addresses himself to the recent order for the 


regulation of printing : " That no book, pamphlet, or paper 
shall be henceforth printed, unless the same be first ap- 
proved and licensed by such, or at least one of such, as shall 
be thereto appointed." He proposes first to show them, 
that this originated from a party with whom they would 
not willingly be identified; secondly, that it would be 
powerless for the suppression of scandalous, seditious, and 
libellous books ; and lastly that it would operate for the dis- 
couragement of all learning, and the effectual obstruction 
of national progress in every department of knowledge 
both secular and sacred. 

But while advocating the liberty of the press, Miltoa 
wisely guarded himself from approving an unseemly and 
dangerous license. " I deny not," he says, " but that it is 
of greatest concernment in the church and commonwealth, 
to have a vigilant eye how books demean themselves as well 
as men; and thereafter to confine, imprison, and do 
sharpest justice on them as malefactors ; for books are not 
absolutely dead things, but do contain a progeny of life in 
them to be as active as that soul was whose progeny they 
are ; nay, they do preserve as in a vial the purest efficacy 
and extraction of that living intellect that bred them. I 
know they are as lively, and as vigorously productive, as 
those fabulous dragon's teeth; and being sown up and 
down, may chance to spring up armed men. And yet, on 
the other hand, unless wariness be used, as good almost 
kill a man as kill a good book: who kills a man kills 
a reasonable creature, God's image ; but he who destroys 
a good book, kills reason itself, kills the image of God, 
as it were, in the eye. Many a man lives a burden to the 
earth; but a good book is the precious life-blood oft 
master-spirit, embalmed and treasured up on purpose to a 
life beyond life. It is true, no age can restore a life, whereat 
perhaps, there is no great loss ; and revolutions of ages & 
not oft recover the loss of a rejected truth, for the want of 
which whole nations fare ft& ^orafe. We should be warji 


terefbre, what persecutions we raise against the living 
labours of public men, how we spill that seasoned life of 
nan, preserved and stored up in hooks ; since we see a kind 
af homicide may he thus committed, sometimes a martyr- 
l ; and if it extend to the whole impression, a kind of 
e, whereof the execution ends not in the slaying of 
in elemental life, hut strikes at the ethereal and fifth 
essence, the breath of reason itself; and slays an im- 
auxrtality rather than a life."* 

Milton next presents an historical sketch of the re- 
strictions which from the earliest ages of literature had 
Wen laid upon books. He shows that in Athens, these 
were confined to writings of a blasphemous or libellous 
character; that in Sparta no such control was exercised; 
that in ancient Rome an almost entire freedom was allowed 
daring the commonwealth. He states, however, that libels 
were burnt, and the makers punished by Augustus, and 
tdds, " The like severity, no doubt, was used, if aught were 
impiously written against their esteemed gods. Except in 
these two points, how the world went in books, the magis- 
trate kept no reckoning." t 

* Prose Works, vol. ii., p. 65. 

+ Milton would appear in this instance to have forgotten the sup- 
pression of the licentious chorus in the Greek Drama thus mentioned 
by Horace: — 

" Successit vetus his Comoedia, non sine multa 
Laude ; sed in vitium libertas excidit, et vim 
Dignam lege regi. Lex est accepta, chorusque 
Turpitur obticuit, sublato jure nocendi." — 

Epist. ad Pis. ver. 281—284. 
, The testimony of Tacitus also, widely differs from Milton's state- 
ment touching the restraints on the expression of opinion, whether 
oral or written, during the earlier period of the Roman empire. In 
his exquisite biography of Agricola, he says : — " Legimus, cum Aru- 
leno Bustico Faetus Thrasea, Herennio Senecioni Priscus Helvidius 
laodati essent, capitale fuisse : neque in ipsos modo auctores, sed in 
libros quoque eorum saevitum, delegate triumviris ministerio, ut 
moaumenta clarissimorum ingeniorum in comitio ac foro urerentur. 
Scilicet illo igne vocem Populi Bomani et Ubeitatem feeuftn^. «fc 


He next shows that the restrictions under Hie Christies 
emperors were no more severe, and indeed that the fettsn 
reforged by the parliamentary ordinance were not impooei 
npon the intellect and conscience of men, until after tb 
year 800. " After which time" he says, " Hie popea d 
Borne, engrossing what they pleased of political rale into 
their own hands, extended their dominion over men's eye* 
as they had before over their judgments, burning and in- 
hibiting to be read what they fancied not ; yet sparing a 
their censures, and the books not many which they so dealt 
with; till Martin the Fifth, by his bull, not only prohibited, 
but was the first that excommunicated, the reading at 
heretical books ; for about that time Wickliffe and Hoe» 
growing terrible, were they who first drove the papal coot 
to a stricter policy of prohibiting. Which coarse Leo the 
Tenth and his successors followed, until the council of 
Trent and the Spanish inquisition, engendering together, 
brought forth or perfected those catalogues and expurging 
indexes, that rake through the entrails of many an old 
good author, with a violation worse than any could to 
offered to his tomb."* 

After another humorous description of the system of 
licensing under the popes, he continues, "And thus ye hare 
the inventors and the original of book licensing ripped vp 
and drawn as lineally as any pedigree. We have it not, 
that can be heard of, from any ancient state, or polity, or 
church, nor by any statute left us by our ancestors elder or 
later ; nor from the modern custom of any reformed city or 

eonscientiam generis humani aboleri arbitrabantur, expulsis insnpr 
sapientise professoribus atque omni bona arte in exUium acta, ne quid 
usquam honestum occurreret. Dedimus profecto grande patients) 
documentum : et sicut vetus aetas vidit quid ultimum in liberttb 
esset, ita nos quid in servitute, adempto per inquisitiones et loquendi 
audiendique commercio. Memoriam quoque ipsam cum voce per- 
didissemus, si tarn in nostra potestate esset oblivisci quam taoere."— 

Vita J. Agric. cap. S. 
* Prose Works, yol. ii., p. 6Q % 


church abroad; but from the most antichristian council, 
and the most tyrannous inquisition that ever inquired. 
Till then books were ever as freely admitted into the world 
a* any other birth ; the issue of the brain was no more 
stifled than the issue of the womb : no envious Juno sat 
cross-legged over the nativity of any man's intellectual 
tfspring ; but if it proved a monster, who denies but that 
it was justly burnt, or sunk into the sea ? But that a book, 
in worse condition than a peccant soul, should be to stand 
before a jury ere it be born to the world, and undergo yet 
in darkness the judgment of Radamanth and his col- 
leagues, ere it can pass the ferry backward into light, was 
never heard before, till that mysterious iniquity, provoked 
mod troubled at the first entrance of reformation, sought 
out new limboes and new hells wherein they might include 
our books also within the number of their damned."* 

He now proceeds to show, by instances, the innocuous 
and even beneficial effects resulting from the study of 
human error, and refers to the heathen learning of Moses, 
Daniel, and Paul, and the high ends it was made to 
subserve ; and thence portrays the advantage derivable to 
the discipline and hardy training of virtue from occasional 
exposure to the temptation of intellectual error. "As, 
therefore," he says, "the state of man now is; what 
wisdom can there be to choose, what continence to forbear, 
without the knowledge of evil ? He that can apprehend 
and consider vice with all her baits and seeming pleasures, 
and yet abstain, and yet distinguish, and yet prefer that 
which is truly better, he is the true warfaring Christian. I 
cannot praise a fugitive and cloistered virtue unexercised 
and unbreathed, that never sallies out and seeks her adver- 
sary, but slinks out of the race, where that immortal 
garland is to be run for, not without dust and heat. 
Assuredly we bring not innocence into the world, we bring 
impurity much rather ; that which purifies us is trial, and 
• Prose Works, voL iL, p. ttt. 


trial is by what is contrary. Thai; virtue therefore which ia 
but a youngling in the contemplation of evil, and know* 
not the utmost that vice promises to her followers, sal 
rejects it, is but a blank virtue, not a pure ; her whiteness 
is but an excremental whiteness ; which was the ream 
why our sage and serious poet Spenser, (whom I dare to 
known to think a better teacher than Scotua or Aquinas,) 
describing true temperance under the person of Gtrion, 
brings him in with his palmer through the cave of 
Mammon, and the bower of earthly bliss, that he might 
see and know, and yet abstain."* 

In connection with this he shows the necessary inefficacy 
of this restrictive scheme to prevent the propagation of 
error, humorously comparing it "to the exploit of tint 
gallant man who thought to pound up the crows by shutting 
the park gate." " If," he continues, " we think to regulate 
printing, thereby to rectify manners, we must regulate all 
recreations and pastimes, all that is delightful to man. No 
music must be heard, no song be set or sung, but what is 
grave and doric. There must be licensing dancers, that no 
gesture, motion, or deportment be taught our youth, but 
what by their allowance shall be thought honest; for 
such Plato was provided of. It will ask more than the 
work of twenty licensers to examine all the lutes, the 
violins, and the guitars in every house ; they must not be 
suffered to prattle as they do, but must be licensed what 
they may say. And who shall silence all the airs and 
madrigals that whisper softness in chambers ? The windows 
also, and the balconies must be thought on; these are 
shrewd books, with dangerous frontispieces, set to sale: 
who shall prohibit them, shall twenty licensers? Hie 
villagers also must have their visitors to inquire what 
lectures the bagpipe and the rebec reads, even to the 
ballatry and the gamut of every municipal fiddler."f 

Proceeding to the third topic of his discourse, he says, 
* Prose Works, yol. iL, p. 68. * Ibid. p. 73. 


" I lastly proceed from the no good it can do, to the mani- 
fest hurt it causes in being first the greatest discouragement 
and affront that can be offered to learning and to learned 
men." " Well," he adds, " knows he who uses to consider, 
that our faith and knowledge thrives by exercise, as well as 
our limbs and complexions. Truth is compared in Scripture 
to a streaming fountain ; if her waters flow not in a per- 
petual progression, they sicken into a muddy pool of con- 
formity and tradition. A man may be a heretic in the 
truth ; and if he believe things only because his pastor says 
so, or the assembly so determines, without knowing other 
reason, though his belief be true, yet the very truth he holds 
becomes his heresy. . . . Truth indeed came once into 
the world with her divine Master, and was a perfect shape 
most glorious to look on : but when he ascended, and his 
apostles after him were laid asleep, then straight arose a 
wicked race of deceivers, who, as that story goes of the 
Egyptian Typhon with his conspirators, how they dealt 
with the good Osiris, took the virgin Truth, hewed her 
lovely form into a thousand pieces, and scattered them to 
the four winds. From that time ever since, the sad friends 
of Truth, such as durst appear, imitating the careful search 
that Isis made for the mangled body of Osiris, went up 
and down gathering up limb by limb still as they could 
find them. We have not yet found them all, lords and 
commons, nor ever shall do, till her Master's second 
coming ; he shall bring together every joint and member, 
and shall mould them into an immortal feature of loveliness 
and perfection. Suffer not these licensing prohibitions to 
stand At every place of opportunity forbidding and dis- 
turbing them that continue seeking, that continue to do our 
obsequies to the torn body of our martyred saint. 

" We boast our light ; but if we look not wisely on the 
sun itself, it smites us into darkness. Who can discern 
those planets that are oft combust, and those stars of 
brightest magnitude that rise and Bet m\h1&B«aa^\H^ 


the opposite motion of their orbs brings them to such t 
place in the firmament, where they may be seen evening or 
morning ? The light which we have gained was given n, 
not to be ever staring on, but by it to discover onward 
things more remote from our knowledge. It is not the 
unfrocking of a priest, the nnmitring of a bishop, and tin 
removing him from off the presbyterian shoulders, that wSL 
make us a happy nation : no ; if other things as great h 
the church, and in the rule of life, both economical aid 
political, be not looked into and reformed, we have looked 
so long upon the blaze that Zuinglius and Calvin haw 
beaconed up to us, that we are stark blind. 

" There be who perpetually complain of schisms and sects, 
and make it such a calamity that any man dissents from 
their maxims. It is their own pride and ignorance which 
cause the disturbing, who neither will hear with meekness, 
nor can convince, yet all must bo suppressed which is not 
found in their Syntagma. They are the troublers, they 
are the dividers of unity, who neglect, and permit not 
others, to unite those dissevered pieces which are yet want- 
ing to the body of truth. To be still searching what ire 
know not, by what we know, still closing up truth to truth 
as we find it, (for all her body is homogeneal, and proper 
tional,) this is the golden rule in theology as well as in 
arithmetic, and makes up the best harmony in a church; 
not the forced and outward union of cold, and neutral, and 
inwardly divided minds."* 

After dwelling with a glow of delight upon the imaginary 
spectacle of a people expanding their intellectual tastes, 
and constantly ministering to an unquenchable desire fir 
advancement in knowledge and virtue, and resuggesting 
his cherished opinion that England was the selected instru- 
ment in the hand of Providence for the regeneration of the 
world, he gives vent to a sentiment far wider than the 
secondary selfishness of patriotism, in these immortal 
* Proae Works, voUii.,^. 89, 90. 


sentences : — " For as in a body when the blood is fresh, the 
spirits pure and vigorous, not only to vital, but to rational 
faculties, and those in the acutest and the pertest ope- 
rations of wit and subtlety, it argues in what good plight 
and constitution the body is ; so when the cheerfulness of 
the people is so sprightly up, as that it has not only where- 
with to guard well its own freedom and safety, but to spare, 
and to bestow upon the solidest and sublimest points of 
controversy and new invention, it betokens us not degene- 
rated, nor drooping to a fatal decay, by casting off the old 
and wrinkled skin of corruption to outlive these pangs, and 
wax young again, entering the glorious ways of truth and 
prosperous virtue, destined to become great and honourable 
in these latter ages. Methinks I see in my mind a noble 
and puissant nation rousing herself like a strong man after 
sleep, and shaking her invincible locks : methinks I see her 
as an eagle mewing her mighty youth, and kindling her 
undazzled eyes at the full midday beam; purging and 
unsealing her long-abused sight at the fountain itself of 
heavenly radiance ; while the whole noise of timorous and 
flocking birds, with those also that love the twilight, flutter 
about, amazed at what she means, and in their envious 
gabble would prognosticate a year of sects and schisms. 

u What should ye do then, should ye suppress all this 
flowery crop of knowledge and new light sprung up and 
yet springing daily in this city ? Should ye set an oligarchy 
of twenty engrossers over it, to bring a famine upon our 
minds again, when we shall know nothing but what is 
measured to us by their bushel? Believe it, lords and 
commons ! they who counsel ye to such a suppressing, do as 
good as bid ye suppress yourselves ; and I will soon show 
how. If it be desired to know the immediate cause of all 
this free writing and free speaking, there cannot be assigned 
a truer than your own mild, and free, and humane govern- 
ment; it is the Kberty, lords and commons, which your 
own valorous and happy counsels tan* ^wxOraae& -**> 


liberty which is the nurse of all great wits : this is that 
which hath rarefied and enlightened our spirits like the in- 
fluence of heaven : this is that which hath enfranchised, 
enlarged, and lifted up our apprehensions degrees above 
themselves. . . . Yet when the new light which we 
beg for shines in upon us, there be who envy and oppose, if 
it come not first in at their casements. What a collusion k 
this, whenas we are exhorted by the wise man to use dili- 
gence, ' to seek for wisdom as for hidden treasures,' early 
and late, that another order shall enjoin us, to know nothing 
but by statute ? When a man hath been labouring the 
hardest labour in the deep mines of knowledge, hath 
furnished out his findings in all their equipage, drawn 
forth his reasons as it were a battle ranged, scattered and 
defeated all objections in his way, calls out his adversary 
into the plain, offers him the advantage of wind and sun, if 
he please, only that he may try the matter by dint of argu- 
ment ; for his opponents then to skulk, to lay ambushmentB, 
to keep a narrow bridge of licensing where the challenger 
should pass, though it be valour enough in soldiership, is 
but weakness and cowardice in the wars of truth. For who 
knows not that truth is strong, next to the Almighty ; she 
needs no policies, nor stratagems, nor licensings to make 
her victorious, those are the shifts and the defences that 
error uses against her power ; give her but room, and do 
not bind her when she sleeps, for then she speaks not true, 
as the old Proteus did, who spake oracles only when he was 
caught and bound, but then rather she turns herself into 
all shapes except her own, and perhaps tunes her voice 
according to the time, as Micaiah did before Ahab, until she 
be adjured into her own likeness." * 

Such was the Areopagitica of Milton. Compared with 

the sordid intolerance of the prelatical regime, and with the 

more recent and equally despicable bigotry of the presby- 

terians, it almost wears the majesty of inspiration ; and it 

* Prose WoxkB,TO\.n.TO-^i3&. 


may well be doubted whether the whole compass of 
literature furnishes a treatise enriched with such elevated 
sentiments, such glorious aspirations, and such stately and 
overwhelming eloquence. 

If our estimate of the character of the presbyterians of 
that day could be lowered by any additional knowledge of 
their proceedings, it would be by the fact that Milton's plea 
for unlicensed printing, while it covered them with shame, 
led to no practical result, but that the barbarous system of 
controlling literature by the fetters of the magistrate was 
maintained until the time when their continued baseness 
and treachery to the cause of freedom sickened the nation, 
and involved them and the Independents, who were worthy 
of a better fate, in one common overthrow. They even wit- 
nessed unmoved the conversion of one of the licensers them- 
selves. This was Gilbert Mabbot, who sought his discharge 
from this ignominious service, according to Jolland, in 1645. 
This date, however, would seem to be incorrect, as a minute 
statement of the case is given in a weekly paper entitled 
" A perfect Diurnal of some Passages in Parliament, and the 
daily proceedings of the army under his Excellency the Lord 
Fairfax, from May 21 st to May 28, 1649." The statement is 
as follows : — " Mr. Mabbot hath long desired several mem- 
bers of the house, and lately the council of state, to move 
the house that he might be discharged of licensing books for 
the future, for the reasons following: viz. Because many 
thousands of scandalous and malignant pamphlets have been 
published with his name thereunto, as if he had licensed the 
same, (though he never saw them) on purpose (as he con- 
ceives) to prejudice him in his reputation amongst the ho- 
nest party of this nation. II. Because that employment (he 
conceives) is unjust and illegal, as to the ends of its first 
institution, viz., to stop the press from publishing anything 
that might discover the corruption of church and state, in 
the time of popery, episcopacy, and tyranny ; the better to 
keep the people in ignorance, and carry on their no^ish^&A- 


tionfi, and tyrannical designs, for the enslaving and destruc- 
tion both of the bodies and souls of all the free people of this 
nation. III. Because licensing is as great a monopoly at 
ever was in this nation, in that all men's judgments, res- 
sons, &c, are to be bound up in the licenser's (as to licensing); 
for if the author of any sheet, book, or treatise, write not to 
please the fancy, and come within the compass of the licenser's 
judgment, then he is not to receive any stamp of authority 
for publishing thereof. IV. Because it is lawful (in his 
judgment) to print any book, sheet, &c, without licensing, 
so as the author and printers do subscribe their true names 
thereunto, that so they may be liable to answer the contents 
thereof; and if they offend therein, then to be punished by 
such laws as are or shall be for those cases provided. A 
committee of the council of state being satisfied with these 
and other reasons of Mr. Mabbot concerning licensing, the 
council of state reports to the house : upon which the house 
ordered this day that the said Mr. Mabbot be discharged of 
licensing books for the future." 



The year 1645 constitutes an interval in which we find 
Milton refreshing his mind after a campaign of controversy 
with the more congenial pursuits of imaginative literature. 
He now puhlished, with his name, an edition of all his Eng- 
lish, Latin, and Italian poems. Of the twenty-three sonnets 
which Milton has left us, only ten were published in this 
volume, the rest having been produced subsequently. Dr. 
Johnson says, that " they do not deserve any particular criti- 
cism, for of the best it can only be said, that they are not bad ; 
and perhaps only the eighth and the twenty-first are truly 
entitled to this slender commendation. The fabric of a son- 
net, however adapted to the Italian language, has never suc- 
ceeded in ours, which having greater variety of termination 
requires the rhymes to be often changed." Alluding once 
in conversation to the inferiority of Milton's sonnets to the 
other efforts of his muse, Br. Johnson characteristically ob- 
served, " Milton was a genius that could carve a Colossus 
from a rook, but could not cut heads upon cherry stone* •" 


and there can be no donbt that such a mind as his 
moved with unwonted constraint under the fetters im- 
posed by the frequent rhymes essential to the construc- 
tion of the sonnet. It is, indeed, best adapted to the 
language of Italy, in which it is indigenous, and does not 
arrive at perfection when cultivated in any other soil. Mr. 
Macaulay takes a different and somewhat novel view of these 
publications. " Traces," he says, " of the peculiar character 
of Milton may be found in all his works, but it is most 
strongly displayed in the sonnets. Those remarkable poems 
have been underrated by critics who have not understood 
their nature. They have no epigrammatic point. There is 
none of the ingenuity of Filicaga in the thought — none of the 
hard and brilliant enamel of Petrarch in the style. They are 
simple but majestic records of the feelings of the poet; as 
little tricked out for the public eye as his diary would have 
been. A victory, an unexpected attack upon the city, a mo- 
mentary fit of depression or exultation, a jest thrown out 
against one of his books, a dream which for a short time 
restored to him that beautiful face over which the grave had 
closed for ever, led him to musings which, without effort, 
shaped themselves into verse. The unity of sentiment and 
severity of style which characterise these little pieces remind 
us of the Greek Anthology, or, perhaps, still more, of the 
Collects of the English Liturgy. The noble poem on the 
Massacres of Piedmont, is strictly a collect in verse. 

" The sonnets are more or less striking according as the 
occasions which gave birth to them are more or less interest- 
ing. But they are almost without exception dignified by a 
sobriety and greatness of mind to which we know not where 
to look for a parallel. It would, indeed, be scarcely safe to 
draw any decided inferences as to the character of a writer, 
from passages directly egotistical. But the qualities which 
we have ascribed to Milton, though, perhaps, most strongly 
marked in those parts of his works which treat of his per- 
sonal feelings, are distinguishable in every page, and impart 


to all his writings, prose and poetry, English, Latin, and 
Italian, a strong family likeness."* 

Of the sonnets thus specially referred to by these critics, 
the two following most suffice as specimens. The former 
was written when an assault on the city was anticipated, the 
royal forces haying advanced as near to it as Brentford. 

" Captain, or Colonel, or Knight in arms, 

Whose chance on these defenceless doors may seize, 

If deed of honour did thee ever please, 

Guard them, and him within protect from harms. 

He can requite thee; for he knows the charms 
That call fame o'er such gentle acts as these, 
And he can spread thy name o'er lands and seas, 
Whatever clime the sun's bright circle warms.* 

Lift not thy spear against the Muses' bower : 
The great Emathian conqueror bid spare 
The house of Pindarus, when temple and tower 

Went to the ground : and the repeated air 
Of sad Electra's poet had the power 
. To save the Athenian walls from ruin bare." 

The second is addressed to the Lord General Cromwell, 
and is as follows : — 

** Cromwell, our chief of men, who through a cloud, 
Not of war only, but detractions rude, 
Guided by faith and matchless fortitude, 
To peace and truth thy glorious way hast plough'd, 

And on the neck of crowned Fortune proud 

Hast rear'd God's trophies, and his work pursued; 
While Darwen stream, with blood of Scots imbued, 
And Dunbar field resounds thy praises loud, 

And Worcester's laureat wreath. Yet much remains 
To conquer still ; Peace hath her victories 
No less renown'd than War: J new foes arise '. 

Threatening to bind our souls with secular chains. 
Help us to save free conscience from the paw 
Of hireling wolves, whose gospel is their maw." 

In the year 1646, the wife of Milton gave hirth to her 
• Edinburgh Review, vol. xlii. pp. 324, 325. 
+ Milton evidently had in his mind Horace's Ode to Censorinus. 
Carminum. Lib. iv., od. 8. 

J Occulta spolia, et plures de pace triumphos. — Juvenal. 


first daughter, Anne, who, from some cause unknown, mt 
lame either from her birth or from very early ^minn*. 
In the following year occurred the death of his aged and 
only surviving parent About the same time his irifift 
family were restored to the possession of their peirimonkl 
estates, and finally quitted the roof beneath which they hid 
been so generously sheltered. While detailing the few 
particulars which we possess of Milton's private life at tms 
time, it may be added, that in 1647 his family was increased 
by the birth of his second daughter, Mary ; and that, in the 
same year, for what reason is not known, he removed from 
his house in Barbican to one in Holborn, the back part of 
which opened into Lincoln's-inn-fields. 

Meanwhile, public events were occurring of sufficient 
magnitude to influence the complexion of this country's 
constitution and destiny, even to the days in which we life, 
but in which the privacy of Milton's position did not allow 
of his taking an active part. 

The civil war had been virtually terminated by the battle 
of Naseby, and the misguided monarch was from this time 
a captive ; his condition being only varied by the different 
degrees of liberty which the caution of his victors, justified 
by a life of faithlessness and falsehood, inclined them to 
concede. " They had to deal with a man whom no tie could 
bind; a man who made and broke promises with equal 
facility; a man whose honour had been a hundred times 
pawned, and never redeemed." The essential duplicity of 
his character marked every act of that brief period of pro- 
bation which intervened between the final defeat of his arms 
and the termination of his career. The leaders of the Par- 
liament and the army, alike wearied out and disgusted with 
his violation of every agreement which the public safety re- 
quired him to enter into, arraigned him before the Parlia- 
ment, and convicted and sentenced him to the death of a 
traitor. The presbyterians, now removed from power, in a 
spirit worthy of their recent history, endangered the public 


tranquillity by their clamours against the execution of the 
king. During this time Milton had been silent; he had, 
indeed, written the work we have next to examine, entitled 
H The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates," in the course of the 
year 1647, but it was not published until after the execu- 
tion of the monarch, in January, 1648, and then only for 
the purpose of composing the public mind, and reconciling 
the disaffected to the new government. " Though we think, 
says Mr. Macaulay, " the conduct of the regicides blameable, 
that of Milton appears to us in a very different light. The 
deed was done. It could not be undone. The evil was in- 
curred ; and the object was to render it as small as possible. 
We censure the chiefs of the army for not yielding to the 
popular opinion ; but We cannot censure Milton for wishing 
to change that opinion. The very feeling which would have 
restrained us from committing the act, would have led us, 
after it had been committed, to defend it against the ravings 
of servility and superstition. For the sake of public liberty, 
we wish that the thing had not been done, while the people 
disapproved of it. But, for the sake of public liberty, we 
should also have wished the people to approve of it when it 
was done."* 

Milton himself, at a subsequent period, when it was un- 
necessary for him to defend himself, declares, " Neither did 
I write anything respecting the regal jurisdiction, till the 
king, proclaimed an enemy by the senate, and overcome in 
arms, was brought captive to his trial, and condemned to 
suffer death. When, indeed, some of the presbyterian 
leaders, lately the most inveterately hostile to Charles, but 
now irritated by the prevalence of the Independents in the 
nation and the senate, and stung with resentment, not of 
the feet, but of their own want of power to commit it, ex- 
claimed against the sentence of the Parliament upon the 
king, and raised what commotions they could, by daring to 
assert that the doctrine of the Protestant divines, a^nd of all 
* Edinburgh Review, vol. xlii., p. 834, 


the reformed churches, was strong in reprobation of this 
severity to kings, — then at length I conceived it to be my 
duty publicly to oppose so much obvious and palpable false- 
hood. Neither did I then direct nty argument or penuatiai 
personally against Charles ; but, by the testimony of many of 
the most eminent divines, I proved what course of condiet 
might lawfully be observed towards tyrants in general; 
and, with the zeal almost of a preacher, I attacked die 
strange ignorance or the wonderful impudence of these 
men, who had lately amused us with the promises of better 
things. This work was not published till after the death 
of the king ; and was written rather to tranquillize the 
minds of men, than to discuss any part of the question 
respecting Charles — a question the decision of which be- 
longed to the magistrate, and not to me, and which had 
now received its final determination." 

Although Milton had never actively interfered in the 
measures which led to the execution of Charles, he was no 
uninterested observer of the great drama of which England 
was the theatre. No man felt more deeply than he what 
the most eloquent of his analysts has written, that "he 
lived at one of the most memorable eras in the history of 
mankind; at the very crisis of the great conflict between 
Oromasdes and Arimanes, — liberty and despotism, reason 
and prejudice. That great battle was fought for no single 
generation, for no single land. The destinies of the human 
race were staked on the same cast with the freedom of the 
English people. Then were first proclaimed those mighty 
principles which have since worked their way into the 
depths of the American forests, which have roused Greece 
from the slavery and degradation of two thousand yean, 
and which, from one end of Europe to the other, have 
kindled an unquenchable fire in the hearts of the oppressed, 
and loosed the knees of the oppressors with a strange and 
unwonted fear ! "* 

* Edinburgh Review, vol. xlii., pp. 324, 325. 


Tiat Milton's views were of the much-disputed act that 
Tupted the royal succession, is sufficiently manifest from 
areatise presently to he noticed, and from his two De- 
3s of the People of England. This, however, seems the 
-opriate place in which to present his opinions of the 
cipal actors in that tragic scene. Dr. Johnson observes, 
l his accustomed injustice, that no man who has written 
uch as Milton has, is so seldom known to bestow praise 
i others. We have already noticed the cordial respect 
jpeatedly testified for his Italian friends : the catalogue 
futation of Dr. Johnson's remark will now be increased 
he names of Sir Henry Vane, Fairfax, Bradshaw, and 
awell. His eulogy upon the Protector will be most fitly 
►duced hereafter. Those upon Fairfax and Vane are 
lined in the following sonnets : — 


Fairfax ! whose name in arms through Europe rings, 
Filling each mouth with envy or with praise, 
And all her jealous monarchs with amaze 
And rumours loud, that daunt remotest kings ; 

?hy firm unshaken virtue ever brings 

Victory home, though new rebellions raise 
Their hydra heads, and the false North displays 
Her broken league to imp their serpent wings. 

>, yet a noble task awaits thy hand, 

(For what can war but endless war still breed ?) 
Till truth and right from violence be freed, 

jid public faith clear'd from the shameful brand 

Of public fraud. In vain doth Valour bleed, % 

While Avarice and Rapine share the land." 


ane ! young in years, but in sage counsel old, 

Than whom a better senator ne'er held 

The helm of Rome, when gowns, not arms, repell'd 

The fierce Epirot and the Afran bold : 
Whether to settle peace, or to unfold 

The drift of hollow states hard to be spell'd ; 

Then to advise how War may, best upheld, 

Move by her two main nerves, iron and gold, 


In all her equipage : besides to know 

Both spiritual power and civil, what each means, 

What severs each, thou hast learn'd, which few have dons 

The bounds of either sword to thee we owe : 
Therefore on thy firm hand Religion leans 
In peace, and reckons thee her eldest son.** 

The historical panegyric upon Bradshaw is found in 
Milton's " Second Defence of the People of England;" and 
as that work, like the "First Defence," was written in 
Latin, it is presented in the following translation : — "John 
Bradshaw* (a name which will he repeated with, applause 
wherever liberty is cherished or is known) was sprang from 
a noble family. All his early life he sedulously employed 
in making himself acquainted with the laws of his country; 
he then practised with singular success and reputation at 
the bar: he showed himself an intrepid and unwearied 
advocate for the liberties of the people : he took an active 
part in the most momentous affairs of the State, and occa- 
sionally discharged the functions of a judge, with the most 
inviolable integrity. At last, when he was entreated by 
the Parliament to preside in the trial of the king, he did 
not refuse the dangerous office. To a profound knowledge 

* An American monumental inscription to the memory of this 
extraordinary man should not he omitted here. It is said to have 
been dated from Anapolis, Jane 21st, 1773, and to have been engraven 
on a cannon, whence copies were taken and hung uf> in almost every 
house in the continent of America : — 

" Stranger ! ere thou pass, contemplate this cannon, nor regardless 
be told that near its base lies deposited the dust of John Bradshaw, 
who, nobly superior to selfish regards, despising alike the pageantry 
of courtly splendour, the blast of calumny, and the terror of regil 
vengeance, presided in the illustrious band of heroes and patriots who 
fairly and openly adjudged Charles Stuart, tyrant of England, to t 
public and exemplary death, thereby presenting to the amazed worii 
and transmitting down through applauding ages, the most glorious 
example of unshaken virtue, love of freedom, and impartial justice, 
ever exhibited on the blood-stained theatre of human action. Oh! 
reader, pass not on till thou hast blessed his memory, and never, 
never forget, that rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God*" 


mf the law, he added the most comprehensive views, the 
most generous sentiments, manners the most obliging and 
the most pure. Hence he discharged that office with a pro- 
priety almost without a parallel ; he inspired both respect 
and awe ; and, though menaced by the daggers of so many 
assassins, he conducted himself with so much consistency 
and gravity — with so much presence of mind, and so much 
dignity of demeanour, that he seems to have been purposely 
destined by Providence for that part which he so nobly 
acted on the theatre of the world. And his glory is as 
much exalted above that of all other tyrannicides, as it 
is more humane, more just, and more strikingly grand, 
judicially to condemn a tyrant, than to put him to death 
without a trial. In other respects there was no forbidding 
austerity, no moroseness in his manner; he was courteous 
and benign; but the great character which he then sus- 
tained, he with perfect consistency still sustains, so that 
you would suppose that not only then, but in every future 
period of his life, he was sitting in judgment upon the king. 
In the public business his activity is unwearied; and he 
alone is equal to a host. At home his hospitality is as 
splendid as his fortune will permit : in his friendships there 
is the most inflexible fidelity ; and no one more readily dis- 
cerns merit, or more liberally rewards it. Men of piety 
and learning, ingenious persons in all professions, those who 
have been distinguished by their courage or their misfor- 
tunes, are free to participate his bounty ; and if they want 
not his bounty, they are sure to share his friendship and 
esteem. He never ceases to extol the merits of others, or 
to conceal his own; and no one was ever more ready to 
accept the excuses, or to pardon the hostility, of his poli- 
tical opponents. If he undertake to plead the cause of the 
oppressed, to solicit the favour or deprecate the resentment 
of the powerful, to reprove the public ingratitude towards 
any particular individual, his address and his perseverance 
are beyond all praise. On such occasions no one could 


desire a patron or a Mend more able, more zealous, or i 
eloquent. No menace could divert him from his purpose! 
no intimidation on the one hand, and no promise of emolu- 
ment or promotion on the other, could alter the serenity d 
his countenance, or shake the firmness of his soul. By then 
virtues, which endeared him to his friends, and commanded 
the respect even of his enemies, he, sir, has acquired a name 
which, while you and such as you are mouldering in obli- 
vion, will flourish in every age, and in every country in the 

The title of the treatise now under notice is as follows :— 
"The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates: proving that it 
is lawful, and hath been held so through all ages, for any, 
who have the power, to call to account a tyrant, or wicked 
king, and, after due conviction, to depose, and put him to 
death, if the ordinary magistrate have neglected or denied 
to do it. And that they who of late so much blame de- 
posing, are the men that did it themselves." Milton com- 
mences with laying down what are the true moral principles 
with relation to political tyranny, affirming that " none can 
love freedom heartily but good men ;f the rest love not free- 
dom, but licence, which never hath more scope or more 
indulgence than under tyrants ;" and, with pointed refer- 
ence to the presby terian apostacy, he adds, " And although 
sometimes for shame, and when it comes to their own griev- 
ances, of purse especially, they would seem good patriots, 
and side with the better cause, yet when others, for the deli- 
verance of their country endued with fortitude and heroic 

* Prose Works, vol. i., pp. 267, 268. 

+ Robert Hall, in his sermon on the death of Dr. Ryland, observes 
that it has been alleged against the Christian religion, that it does not 
prescribe the duties of patriotism and friendship; but argues, in reply, 
that it supplies the only system of morals from which those virtues 
can result. With respect to friendship, Cicero affirmed, in his tra- 
tise " De Amicitia," that it could only subsist between virtuous men ; 
and Milton here maintains that general moral excellence must en- 
gender that sentiment which alone deserves the name of patriotism. 


virtue to fear nothing but the curse written against those 

* that do the work of the Lord negligently/ would go on to 
remove, not only the calamities and thraldoms of a people, 
but the roots and causes whence they spring ; straight these 
men, and sure helpers at need, as if they hated only the 
miseries, but not the mischiefs, after they have juggled and 
paltered with the world, bandied and borne arms against 
their king, divested him, disanointed him, nay, cursed him 
all over in their pulpits, and their pamphlets, to the en- 
gaging of sincere and real men beyond what is possible or 
honest to retreat from, not only turn revolters from those 
principles, which only could at first move them, but lay the 
strain of disloyalty, and worse, on those proceedings which 
are the necessary consequences of their own former actions ; 
nor disliked by themselves, were they managed to the entire 
advantages of their own faction ; not considering the while 
that he toward whom they boasted their new fidelity, 
counted them accessory; and by those statutes and laws, 
which they so impotently brandish against others, would 
have doomed them to a traitor's death for what they have 
done already."* 

• Mr. St. John, hi his edition of the prose works of Milton, makes 
the following comment upon this passage : — " Dr. Zachary Grey, the 
learned, but partial and prejudiced editor of Hudibras, has, with the 
diligence of one who performs a labour of love, scraped together in 
his notes everything the paltry literature of the Restoration could 
supply against the preachers and soldiers of the Commonwealth. He, 
however, corroborates Milton's charge against the Presbyterians, of 
having at the outset preached a crusade against royalty ; but is far 
from joining with the poet in reprehending their backwardness to 

* fight it out, mordicus — to death.* ' The Presbyterians (many of whom, 
before the war, had got, he observes, into parish churches) preached 
the people into rebellion ; incited them to take up arms and fight the 
Lord's battles, and destroy the Amalekites, root and branch, hip and 
thigh, and to root out the wicked from the earth ; that was, in their 
sense, all that loved the king, the bishops, and the common prayer.' 
'It has been fully made out, that many of the regicides were drawn 
into the grand rebellion by the direful imprecations of seditious 


Milton now subjects the meanness and tergiversation of 
the presbyterians to an unsparing exposure, showing that 
they reversed their policy from purely selfish motives; that 
they were tainted at heart with the same spiritual despotism 
under which they had themselves suffered ; and that tftej 
were seeking to profit by a political transition, in order to 
establish themselves in the place vacated by the frustrated 
faction of prelacy. He then addresses himself to the ethical 
part of his subject, in the following passage : — " But who 
in particular is a tyrant, cannot be determined in a general 
discourse, otherwise than by supposition; his particular 
charge, and the sufficient proof of it, must determine that : 
which I leave to magistrates, at least to the uprighter sort 
of them, and of the people, though in number less by many, 
in whom faction least hath prevailed above the law of 
nature and right reason, to judge as they find cause. Bat 
this I dare own as part of my faith, that if such a one there 
be, by whose commission whole massacres have been com- 
mitted on his faithful subjects, his provinces offered to pawn 
or alienation, as the hire of those whom he had solicited to 
come in and destroy whole cities and countries ; be he king, 
or tyrant, or emperor, the sword of justice is above him ; in 
whose hand soever is found sufficient power to avenge the 
eflusion and so great a deluge of innocent blood. For if all 
human power to execute, not accidentally, but intendedly, 
the wrath of God upon evil-doers, without exception, be of 
God ; then that power, whether ordinary, or, if that fail, 
extraordinary, so executing that intent of God, is lawful, 

preachers from the pulpit.' Dr. South relates that ' he had it from 
the mouth of Axtell the regicide, that he, with many more, went into 
that execrable war with such a controlling horror upon their spirits 
from those public sermons, especially of Brooks and Calamy, tail 
they verily believed they should have been accursed of God for ewr 
if they had not acted their part in the dismal tragedy, and heartilj 
done the devil's work.' — (Sermons, i. 513.) He adds, that ' it was th« 
pulpit that supplied the field with swordsmen, and the parliament- 
house with incendiaries.' " 


and not to be resisted. But to unfold more at large this 
whole question, though with all expedient brevity, I shall 
here set down, from first beginning, the original of kings ; 
how and wherefore exalted to that dignity above their 
brethren; and from thence shall prove, that, turning to 
tyranny, they may be as lawfully deposed and punished, as 
they were at first elected: this I shall do by authorities 
and reasons, not learnt in corners among schisms and 
heresies, as our doubling divines are ready to calumniate, 
but fetched out of the midst of choicest and most authentic 
learning, and no prohibited authors ; nor many heathen, but 
Mosaical, Christian, orthodoxal, and, which must needs be 
more convincing to our adversaries, presbyterial."* 

In pursuance of this purpose, he first presents a brief but 
philosophical history of political constitutions, and deduces 
from it the following conclusions : — First, that the power of 
kings and magistrates is only derivative — transferred and 
committed to them by the people, in trust for the common 
good of the entire community, in whom the power yet 
remains fundamentally, and from whom it cannot be alien- 
ated without a violation of their natural birthright; and 
consequently that such titles as sovereign lord, natural lord, 
and the like, are "either arrogancies or flatteries." Se- 
condly, "that to say, as is usual, the king hath as good 
right to his crown and dignity as any man to his inherit- 
ance, is to make the subject no better than the king's slave, 
his chattel, or his possession that may be bought and sold : 
and doubtless, if hereditary title were sufficiently inquired, 
the best foundation of it would be found but either in cour- 
tesy or convenience. But suppose it to be of right heredi- 
tary, what can be more just and legal, if a subject for 
certain crimes be to forfeit by law from himself and posterity 
all his inheritance to the king, than that a king, for crimes 
proportional, should forfeit all his title and inheritance to 
the people ? Unless the people must be thought created all 
* Prose Works, vol. ii, pp. 7, 8. 


for him, he not for them, and they all in one body .inferior 
to him single ; which were a kind of treason against the 
dignity of mankind to affirm. Thirdly, it follows, that to sty 
kings are accountable to none bnt God, is the overturning of 
all law and government For if they may refuse to gi?e 
account, then all covenants made with them at coronation, 
all oaths are in vain, and mere mockeries ; all laws which 
they swear to keep, made to no purpose : for if the king 
fear not God, (as how many of them do not,) we hold then 
our lives and estates by the tenure of his mere grace and 
mercy, as from a god, not a mortal magistrate; a position 
that none but court parasites or men besotted would main- 

This position Milton fortifies by references to ancient his- 
tory, both sacred and profane, and adds : — " It follows, lastly, 
that since the king or magistrate holds his authority of the 
people, both originally and naturally for their good, in the 
first place, and not his own, then may the people, as oft as 
they shall judge it for the best, either choose him or reject 
him, retain him or depose him, though no tyrant, merely by 
the liberty and right of freeborn men to be governed as 
seems to them best." This he supports by numerous pas- 
sages both from the Old and New Testaments. 

He next shows that the sacred writers, in prescribing the 
duty of civil subordination, at the same time define the 
power to which such obedience is due, namely, those who 
are a terror only to evil-doers, and a protection and encou- 
ragement to those that do well; and adds, "If such only 
be mentioned here as powers to be obeyed, and our submis- 
sion to them only required, then doubtless those powers that 
do the contrary are no powers ordained of God; and by 
consequence no obligation laid upon us to obey, or not to 
resist them. And it may be well observed, that both these 
apostles, whenever they give this precept, express it in 
terms not concrete, but abstract, as logicians are wont to 
♦ Prose Works, vol. ii., pp. 12, 18. 


speak; that is, they mention the ordinance, the power, the 
authority, before the persons that execute it ; and what that 
power is, lest we should be deceived, they describe exactly. 
So that if the power be not such, or the person execute not 
such power, neither the one nor the other is of God, but of 
the devil, and by consequence to be resisted." After fencing 
this position, as before, with the authority of revelation, he 
concludes: — " We may from hence with more ease and force 
of argument determine what a tyrant is, and what the 
people may do against him. A tyrant, whether by wrong 
or by right coming to the crown, is he who, regarding nei- 
ther law nor the common good, reigns only for himself and 
his faction : thus St. Basil, among others, defines him. And 
because his power is great, his will boundless and exorbi- 
tant, the fulfilling whereof is for the most part accompanied 
with innumerable wrongs and oppressions of the people — 
murders, massacres, rapes, adulteries, desolation, and sub- 
version of cities and whole provinces — look how great a 
good and happiness a just king is, so great a mischief is a 
tyrant; as he the public father of his country, so this the 
common enemy. Against whom what the people lawfully 
may do, as against a common pest and destroyer of man- 
kind, I suppose no man of clear judgment need go further 
to be guided than by the very principles of nature in him."* 
Milton next shows that there is no such peculiarity in 
the relation subsisting between a monarch and his subjects, 
as removes it from the operation of those great moral prin- 
ciples which apply to all the other relations of mankind. 
" Who knows not," he says, " that there is a mutual bond 
of amity and brotherhood between man and man over all 
the world P neither is it the English sea that can sever us 
from that duty and relation : a straiter bond yet there is 
between fellow-subjects, neighbours, and friends. But when 
any of these do one to another so as hostility could do no 
worse, what doth the law decree less against them, than 
* Prose Works, vol. ii., pp. 17, 18. 


open enemies and invaders ? or if the law be not present or 
too weak, what doth it warrant us to less than single defence 
or civil war? and from that time forward the law of chil 
defensive war differs nothing from the law of foreign hos- 
tility. Nor is it distance of place that makes enmity, bat 
enmity that makes distance. He, therefore, that keeps peace 
with me, near or remote, of whatsoever nation, is to me, as 
far as all civil and human offices, an Englishman and a 
neighbour : but if an Englishman, forgetting all lam, 
human, civil, and religious, offend against life and liberty, 
to him offended, and to the law in his behalf, though bora 
in the same womb, he is no better than a Turk, a Saracen, 
a heathen."* 

This position Milton proceeds to fortify by the Old Tes- 
tament examples of Ehud, Samuel, and David; and then, 
passing from example to precept, descends to the principles 
of the New Testament dispensation. He comments on the 
contrast established between the " princes of the Gentiles" 
and his servants ; and emphatically notices that he speaks 
of them as " they that seem to rule " (in the common ver- 
sion, " they which are accounted to rule "), " either slighting 
or accounting them no lawful rulers;" adding, "and al- 
though he himself were the meekest, and came on earth to 
be so, yet to a tyrant we hear him not vouchsafe an humble 
word ; but, < Tell that fox/ Luke xiii. 32. So far we ought 
to be from thinking that Christ and his gospel should be 
made a sanctuary from justice for tyrants, to whom his law 
before never gave such protection." 

Pursuing the course of this argument, from the times of 
Christ through the history of nominally Christian states, he 
thus applies it to our own country: — " Gildas, the most an- 
cient of all our historians, speaking of those times wherein 
the Roman empire decaying, quitted and relinquished whit 
right they had by conquest to this island, and resigned it 
all into the people's hands, testifies that the people thus 
* Prose Works, vol. ii., pp. 17, 18. 


reinvested with their own original right, about the year 446, 
both elected them kings, whom they thought best, (the first 
Christian British kings that ever reigned here since the 
Romans,) and by the same right, when they apprehended 
cause, usually deposed and put them to death. This is the 
most fundamental and ancient tenure that any king of Eng- 
land can produce or pretend to ; in comparison of which, all 
other titles and pleas are but of yesterday. If any object, 
that Gildas condemns the Britons for so doing, the answer 
is as ready — that he condemns them no more for so doing 
than he did before for choosing such ; for, saith he, * They 
anointed them kings not of God, but such as were more 
bloody than the rest.' Next, he condemns them not at all 
for deposing or putting them to death, but for doing it over 
hastily, without trial or well examining the cause, and for 
electing others worse in their room. Thus we have here 
both domestic and most ancient examples, that the people 
of Britain have deposed and put to death their kings in 
those primitive Christian times. And to couple reason with 
example, if the church in all ages, primitive, Romish, or 
Protestant, held it ever no less their duty than the power of 
their keys, though without express warrant of Scripture, to 
bring indifferently both king and peasant under the utmost 
rigour of their canons and censures ecclesiastical, even to 
the smiting him with a final excommunion, if he persist 
impenitent j what hinders but that the temporal law both 
may and ought, though without a special text or precedent, 
extend with like indifference to the civil sword, to the 
cutting off, without exemption, him that capitally offends, 
seeing that justice and religion are from the same God, and 
works of justice ofttimes more acceptable ?"* 

After tracing the thread of his argument through more 

modern history, he closes with his main opponents by citing 

John Knox, the head of the presbyterian branch of the 

Reformation, who " maintained openly, at a general assem- 

* Prose Works, vol. ii., pp. 23, 24. 


bly, in a dispute against Lethington, the secretary of state, 
that subjects might and ought to execute God's judgments 
upon their king ; that the fact of Jehu and others againit 
their king, having the ground of God's ordinary command 
to put such and such offenders to death, was not extraor- 
dinary, but to be imitated of all that preferred the honov 
of God to the affection of flesh and wicked princes; that 
kings, if they offend, have no privilege to be exempted from 
the punishments of law, more than any other subject: so 
that if the king be a murderer, adulterer, or idolater, he 
should suffer, not as a king, but as an offender ; and thii 
position he repeats again and again before them," Thv 
judgment he further shows to be in accordance with the 
principles of the Reformers generally. " And Knox," he 
adds, " being commanded by the nobility to write to Calvin 
and other learned men for their judgments in that question, 
refused, alleging that both himself was fully resolved in 
conscience, and had heard their judgments, and had the 
same opinion under handwriting of many the most godly 
and most learned that he knew in Europe ; that if he should 
move the question to them again, what should he do but 
show his own forgetfulness or inconstancy?" To this he 
adds the embassy of the Scots to Queen Elizabeth, with 
reference to the deposition of Mary, in which they openly 
assumed the right of making and deposing monarchs, main- 
taining that regal power was nothing else but a mutual 
covenant or stipulation between king and people, and pro- 
ceeds to prove that the presbyterians had in Parliament 
acted on this constitutional principle. " There is nothing, 1 ' 
he says, " that so actually makes a king of England, at 
rightful possession and supremacy in all causes both civil 
and ecclesiastical : and nothing that so actually makes a 
subject of England as those two oaths of allegiance and 
supremacy observed without equivocating, or any mental 
reservation. Out of doubt, then, when the king shall 
command things already constituted in church or state, 


obedience is the trueessenceof a subject, either to do, if it be 
lawful, or if he hold the thing unlawful, to submit to that 
penally which the law imposes, so long as he intends to 
remain a subject. Therefore when the people, or any part 
of them, shall rise against the king and his authority, exe- 
cuting the law in anything established, civil or ecclesiastical, 
I do not say it is rebellion, if the thing commanded though 
established be unlawful, and that they sought first all due 
means of redress (and no man is further bound to law) ; 
but I say it is an absolute renouncing both of supremacy 
and allegiance, which, in one word, is an actual and total 
deposing of the king, and the setting up of another supreme 
authority over them. And whether the Presbyterians have 
not done all this and much more, they will not put me, I 
suppose, to reckon up a seven years' story, fresh in the 
memory of all men." After detailing their political course, 
he concludes : " To speak more in brief, they have deposed 
him, not only by depriving him of the execution of his 
authority, but by conferring it upon others." It is singular 
that Milton should not have adopted the more direct argu- 
ment used by the latest editor of his prose works. Mr. St. 
John places them in the following simple dilemma : The 
Presbyterians having taken up arms against the king, and 
fought with him in the field, had necessarily been often in 
a position where they might have slain him. If they were 
now right, therefore, they had then been wrong ; and vice 

He next lays down that covenants, of whatever descrip- 
tion, including that between a king and a people, are abso- 
lutely voided by the violation of their conditions, and that 
from this most arise an appeal to the original principles of 
justice, as if such covenant had never existed; and having 
shown that these conditions had been repeatedly violated by 
the deposed monarch, he vindicates the course which had 
been pursued towards him. " It is not," he says, " neither 
ought to be, the glory of a protestant state never to ha?** 


put their king to death ; it is the glory of a protestant king 
never to have deserved death. And if the parliament and 
military council do what they do without precedent, if it 
appear their duty, it argues the more wisdom, virtue, and 
magnanimity that they know themselves able to be a pre- 
cedent to others, who perhaps in future ages, if they prove 
not too degenerate, will look up with honour, and aspire 
towards these exemplary and matchless deeds of their an- 
cestors, as to the highest top of their civil glory and emu- 
lation; which heretofore, in the pursuance of fame and 
foreign dominion, spent itself vaingloriously abroad, bat 
henceforth may learn a better fortitude, to dare execute 
highest justice on them that shall by force of arms endea- 
vour the oppressing and bereaving of religion and their 
liberty at home. That no unbridled potentate or tyrant, 
but to his sorrow, for the future may presume such high and 
irresponsible licence over mankind, to havoc and turn upside 
down whole kingdoms of men, as though they were no more 
in respect of his perverse will than a nation of pismires." • 
This he further justifies, in conclusion, by citing the autho- 
rity of Luther, Calvin, Zwinglius, Bucer, Paraeus, Knox, and 
several other authorities, from among the earliest and best 
of the Reformers. Unhappily his arguments and his elo- 
quence were alike addressed to the ears of the deaf. The 
Presbyterians still maintained the spirit of prelacy, under 
the guise of Nonconformity, and to them must be attri- 
buted the extinction of the fairest prospect of religious 
freedom that ever shone upon this nation, and the gloomy 
darkness in which it sunk, and which the efforts of suc- 
ceeding centuries have not prevailed to disperse. 

* Prose Works, vol. ii. p. 84. 





Milton's next work was entitled " Observations on the 
Articles of Peace with the Irish Rebels, and the Repre- 
sentation of the Presbytery at Belfast." On the humiliating 
articles of peace concluded by the Earl of Ormond, in the 
name of the king, with the monsters who had murdered in 
cold blood forty thousand of their Protestant fellow subjects, 
his opinion is thus expressed : — " As for these articles of 
peace made with those inhuman rebels and papists of Ire- 
land by the late king, as one of his last masterpieces, we may 
be confidently persuaded, that no true-born Englishman can 
so much as barely read them without indignation and dis- 
dain, that those bloody rebels, and so proclaimed and judged 
of by the king himself, after the merciless and barbarous 
massacre of so many thousand English, (who had used their 
right and title to that country with such tenderness and 
moderation, and might otherwise have secured themselves 
with ease against their treachery,) should be now graced 
and rewarded with such freedoms and enlar^meu\&,ra\tfs&fe 


of their ancestors could ever merit by their best obedience, 
which at best was always treacherous ; to be enfranchised 
with full liberty equal to their conquerors, whom the Just 
revenge of ancient piracies, cruel captivities, and the cause- 
less infestation of our coast had warrantably called over, and 
the long prescription of many hundred years, besides what 
other titles are acknowledged by their own Irish parliament, 
had fixed and seated in that soil with as good a right as the 
merest natives."* 

The manifesto of the Presbytery at Belfast is scarcely less 
offensive to the generous nature of Milton; it breathes 
throughout a spirit of sanctimoniousness, bigotry, and arro- 
gance. One only of their charges against the Parliament 
shall be noticed here, for the sake of the admirable senti- 
ment it elicited from Milton in reply. The charge is, that 
they laboured " to establish by laws a universal toleration 
of all religions, which is an innovation overturning of unity 
in religion, and so directly repugnant to the Word of God." 
" This," he replies, " touches not the State ; for certainly, 
were they so minded, they need not labour it, but do it, 
having power in their hands ; and we know of no Act as yet 
passed to that purpose. But suppose it done, wherein is the 
covenant broke ? The covenant enjoins us to endeavour the 
extirpation first of popery and prelacy, then of heresy, 
schism, and profaneness, and whatsoever shall be found con- 
trary to sound doctrine and the power of godliness. And 
this we cease not to do by all effectual and proper means: 
but these divines might know, that to extirpate all these 
things can be no work of the civil sword, but of the spiritual, 
which is the work of God. No man well in his wits, endea- 
vouring to root up weeds out of his ground, instead of wring 
the spade will take a mallet or a beetle. Nor doth the co- 
venant any way engage us to extirpate or to prosecute the 
men, but the heresies and errors in them, which we tdl 
these divines, and the rest that understand not, belongs 
* Prose Works, toL ii. p. 180. 


chiefly to their own function, in the diligent preaching and 
insisting upon sound doctrine, in the confuting, not the rail- 
ing down, of errors, encountering both in public and private 
conference, and by the power of truth, not of persecution) 
subduing those authors of heretical opinions. . . . And 
whereas they affirm, that the tolerating of all religions, in 
the manner that we tolerate them, is an innovation ; we 
must acquaint them, that we are able to make it good, if 
need be, both by Scripture and the primitive fathers, and the 
frequent assertion of whole churches and protestant states 
in their remonstrances and expostulations against the popish 
tyranny over souls. . . . And surely, when we put 
down bishops and put up presbyters, which the most of them 
have made use of to enrich and exalt themselves, and turn 
the first heel against their benefactors, we did not think, 
that one classic fraternity, so obscure and so remote, should 
involve us and all state-affairs within the censure and juris- 
diction of Belfast, upon pretence of overseeing their own 
charge. We very well know, that church-censures are 
limited to church matters, and these within the compass 
of their own province, or, to say more truly, of their own 
congregation : that affairs of state are not for their med- 
dling, as we could urge even from their own invectives and 
protestations against the bishops, wherein they tell them 
with much fervency, that ministers of the gospel, neither by 
that function, nor any other which they ought to accept, have 
the least warrant to be pragmatical in the state."* 

The publication of this treatise closed the controversial 
campaign, and Milton again retreated to the more serene 
and congenial pursuits of literature. He had long devoted 
himself in intention to the production of a complete history 
of his country, from the earliest times of which any records 
had descended to posterity. This work he now commenced, 
and completed four books of it, conducting the narrative to 
the union of the Heptarchy under Egbert This work was 
* Prose Works, vol. ii. pp. 169, 19$, 194. 


never completed, though two more books, extending the nar- 
rative to the Norman conquest, were written in a subsequent 
interval of literary leisure. Of this earlier portion the his- 
torical value assigned by himself is exceedingly small. The 
period it embraced was the twilight interval of myths and 
phantoms between the night of unknown antiquity and the 
rise of history. "I have therefore determined," he says, "to 
bestow the telling over even of these reputed tales, be it for 
nothing else but in favour of our English poets and rheto- 
ricians, who by their art well know how to use them judi- 

This labour was interrupted by the great event of Mil- 
ton's life. A political and spiritual despotism had ter- 
minated with the life of the treacherous and misguided 
Charles I. ; and England had entered on that brief period 
of renovation which had been hailed by Milton with the 
enthusiasm we have seen animating his eloquence. The 
executive government under the republic was committed to 
a council of state, consisting of thirty-eight members of the 
legislature ; and as the diplomatic correspondence of Europe 
was then conducted in Latin, it became necessary to appoint 
a foreign secretary, who combined with other qualifications 
of the highest order, the most familiar acquaintance with 
that language. Among the many wise measures by which 
this period was rendered memorable, the appointment of 
Milton to this office was one of the most important The 
date of the Commonwealth has often been indicated as the 
culminating point of England's greatness. This has been 
popularly attributed in a great measure to the administra- 
tive genius of Cromwell ; but it is impossible not to believe 
that the intellectual and moral majesty of Milton con- 
tributed materially to the boasted pre-eminence of this conn- 
try in the scale and the homage of contemporary nations. 

It is difficult to characterize Milton's Letters of State in 
terms of extravagant eulogy. Uncorrupted with the finesse 
of vulgar diplomacy, they are instinct with a philanthropy 


which extends its embrace far beyond the conventional 
limits of nationality, and in imitation of the Divine be- 
nignity recognizes the brotherhood of mankind. Their style 
is stamped with a majesty that folly represents the mightiest 
of earthly empires, and with that pacific courtesy, with 
that tender care for the oppressed, and that profound recog- 
nition of the King of kings, which are the most glorious 
insignia of imperial sway. Happy will it be for this country 
when these productions shall be reverenced by its rulers, as 
the great ensamples of national behaviour. 

It is obvious that these productions of Milton's pen do not 
admit of an analysis; a selection, therefore, from a few of the 
most characteristic letters, must suffice to exhibit the poet, 
the polemic, and the patriot in the new phase of the states- 
man. The following letter, written by Milton in the name 
of the Protector, to Gustavus of Sweden, affords a specimen 
of the conciliatory spirit infused by Milton into the foreign 
intercourse of his government : — 
" Oliver, Protector of the Commonwealth of England, #c, 

to the most Serene Prince Charles Gustavus, King of 

the Swedes, Goths, and Vandals. 
" Most Serene King, our dearest Friend and Confederate, — 

" Being assured of your majesty's concurrence both in 
thoughts and counsels for the defence of the Protestant 
faith against the enemies of it, if ever, now at this time 
most dangerously vexatious ; though we cannot but rejoice 
at your prosperous success, and the daily tidings of your 
victories, yet on the other side we cannot but be as deeply 
afflicted, to meet with one thing that disturbs and inter- 
rupts our joy ; we mean the bad news intermixed with so 
many welcome tidings, that the ancient friendship between 
your majesty and the States of the United Provinces looks 
with a dubious aspect, and that the mischief is exasperated 
to that height, especially in the Baltic Sea, as seems to bode 
an unhappy rupture. We confess ourselves ignorant of the 
i j but we too easily foresee, that the events, which 


God avert, will be fatal to the interests of the Protestanta 
And therefore, as well in respect to that most strict alliance 
between us and your majesty, as out of that affection cod 
love to the reformed religion, by which we all of ns ought 
chiefly to be swayed, we thought it our duty, as we bun 
most earnestly exhorted the States of the United Provinces 
to peace and moderation, so now to persuade your majesty 
to the same. The Protestants have enemies everywhere, 
enow and to spare, inflamed with inexorable revenge ; they 
never were known to have conspired more perniciously to 
our destruction : witness the valleys of Piedmont, still reek- 
ing with the blood and slaughter of the miserable ; witness 
Austria, lately turmoiled with the emperor's edicts and pro- 
scriptions ; witness Switzerland. But to what purpose ii 
it, in many words to call back the bitter lamentations and 
remembrance of so many calamities ? Who so ignorant, as 
not to know, that the counsels of the Spaniards, and the 
Roman pontiff, for these two years have filled all these 
places with conflagrations, slaughter, and vexation of the 
orthodox ? If to these mischiefs there should happen an 
access of dissension among Protestant brethren, more es- 
pecially between two potent states, upon whose courage, 
wealth, and fortitude, so far as human strength may be 
relied upon, the support and hopes of all the reformed 
churches depend ; of necessity the Protestant religion mast 
be in great jeopardy, if not upon the brink of destruction. 
On the other side, if the whole Protestant name would hot 
observe perpetual peace among themselves with that same 
brotherly union as becomes their profession, there would be 
no occasion to fear, what all the artifices or puissance of our 
enemies could do to hurt us which our fraternal concord and 
harmony alone would easily repel and frustrate. And there- 
fore we most earnestly request and beseech your majesty, 
to harbour in your mind propitious thoughts of peace, and 
inclinations ready bent to repair the breaches of your pris- 
tine friendship with the United Provinces, if in any part it 


have accidentally suffered the decays of mistakes or 
misconstruction. If there be anything wherein our labour, 
oar fidelity, and diligence may be useful toward this com- 
posure, we offer and devote all to your service. And may 
the God of heaven favour and prosper your noble and pious 
resolutions, which, together with all felicity, and a perpetual 
coarse of victory, we cordially wish to your majesty. 
" Your majesty's most affectionate, 

" Oliver, Protector of the Commonwealth 
of England, &c. 
"Fromour Palace at Westminster, Aug. — , 1656."* 

It was during the foreign administration of Milton that 
Immanuel, Duke of Savoy, commenced against the Vaudois 
or Waldenses one of the most cruel religious persecutions 
that have raged in modern times. Its victims were an in- 
offensive and devout community, settled for ages in the val- 
leys of Piedmont, and there preserving, amidst the surround- 
ing darkness of Popish superstition, the light of uncorrupted 
Christianity. Though holding the same fundamental doc- 
trines which the Protestants had embraced, they cannot be 
classed under the same religious denomination, seeing that 
they never dissented from the Papacy, but claimed, and in 
all probability with truth, to be the hereditary representa- 
tives of the apostolic Church originally founded in Home. 
Instigated by ecclesiastical advisers, the duke resolved on 
the extermination of this innocent community, and issued 
an edict for this purpose, the effect of which was speedily 
felt in massacre, torture, and famine. The intelligence of 
these sufferings at once aroused the indignation of Cromwell 
and Milton, and the result was the following temperate and 
admirable letter to the author of the calamity : — 
" Oliver, the Protector, $c. f to the most Serene Prince, Im- 

MAMUEL, Duke of Savoy, Prince of Piedmont, Greeting. 
" Most Serene Prince, — 

" Letters have been sent us from Geneva, as also from 
* Prose Works, voL ii. pp. 282, 288. 


the Dauphinate, and many other places bordering upon youf 
territories, wherein we are given to understand, that such 
of your royal highnesses subjects as profess the reformed 
religion, are commanded by your edict, and by your autho- 
rity, within three days after the promulgation of your edict, 
to depart their native seats and habitations, upon pain of 
capital punishment, and forfeiture of all their fortunes 
and estates, unless they will give security to relinquish their 
religion within twenty days, and embrace the Roman Ca- 
tholic faith. And that when they applied themselves to 
your royal highness in a most suppliant manner, imploring 
a revocation of the said edict, and that, being received into 
pristine favour, they might be restored to the liberty granted 
them by your predecessors, a part of your army fell upon 
them, most cruelly slew several, put others in chains, and 
compelled the rest to fly into desert places, and to the moun- 
tains covered with snow, where some hundreds of families 
are reduced to such distress, that it is greatly to be feared, 
they will in a short time all miserably perish through cold 
and hunger. These things, when they were related to us, 
we could not choose but be touched with extreme grief and 
compassion for the sufferings and calamities of this afflicted 
people. Now in regard we must acknowledge ourselves 
linked together not only by the same tie of humanity, but 
by joint communion of the same religion, we thought it im- 
possible for us to satisfy our duty to God, to brotherly cha- 
rity, or our profession of the same religion, if we should 
only be affected with a bare sorrow for the misery and cala- 
mity of our brethren, and not contribute all our endeavours 
to relieve and succour them in their unexpected adversity, 
as much as in us lies. Therefore in a greater measure we 
most earnestly beseech and conjure your royal highness, that 
you would call back to your thoughts the moderation of 
your most serene predecessors, and the liberty by them 
granted and confirmed from time to time to their subjects 
the Vaudois. In granting and confirming which, as they 


did that which without all question was most grateful to 
God, who has been pleased to reserve the jurisdiction and 
power over the conscience to himself alone, so there is no 
doubt, but that they had a due consideration of their subjects 
also, whom they found stout and most faithful in war, 
and always obedient in peace. And as your royal serenity 
in other things most laudably follows the footsteps of your 
immortal ancestors, so we again and again beseech your 
royal highness not to swerve from the path wherein they 
trod in this particular; but that you would vouchsafe to 
abrogate both this edict, and whatsoever else may be de- 
creed to the disturbance of your subjects upon the account 
of the reformed religion; that you would ratify to them 
their conceded privileges and pristine liberty, and command 
their losses to be repaired, and that an end be put to their 
oppressions. Which if your royal highness shall be pleased 
to see performed, you will do a thing most acceptable to God, 
revive and comfort the miserable in dire calamity, and most 
highly oblige all your neighbours, that profess the reformed 
religion ; but more especially ourselves, who shall be bound 
to look upon your clemency and benignity toward your sub- 
jects as the fruit of our earnest solicitation. Which will 
both engage us to a reciprocal return to all good offices, and 
lay the solid foundations not only of establishing, but in- 
creasing, alliance and friendship between this republic and 
your dominions. Nor do we less promise this to ourselves 
from your justice and moderation; to which we beseech 
Almighty God to incline your mind and thoughts. And so 
we cordially implore just Heaven to bestow upon your 
highness and your people the blessings of peace and truth, 
and prosperous success in all your affairs. 

a Whitehall, May—, 1655."* 

The mingled wisdom and tact exhibited in this communi- 
cation need not be pointed out to any one who considers the 
relative position of the two governments. It was quickly 
• Prose Works, vol. ii. pp. B49— B51, 

166 . JOHNMILTOtf. 

followed by similar letters addressed to the principal 
European powers; some of which demonstrate, that tiris 
tenderness of sympathy and moderation of manner did Mt 
lack the support of the stern resolution of Cromwell, tad 
the magnanimity and decision of the Secretary of State. To 
the Prince of Transylvania he writes, — " After fame had 
reported to us your egregious merits and labours, undertake* 
in behalf of the Christian republic, when you were pleated 
that all these things, and what you have further in year 
thoughts to do in the defence and for promoting the Chris- 
tian interest, should be in friendly manner imparted to n 
by letters from yourself, this afforded us a more plentifid 
occasion of joy and satisfaction, to hear that God, in tioee 
remoter regions, had raised up to himself so potent and 
renowned a minister of his glory and providence : and that 
this great minister of heaven, so famed for his courage and 
success, should be desirous to associate with us in the com- 
mon defence of the Protestant religion, at this time wickedly 
assailed by words and deeds. Nor is it to be questioned 
but that God, who has infused into us both, though sepa- 
rated by such a spacious interval of many climates, the 
same desires and thoughts of defending the orthodox reli- 
gion, will be our instructor and author of the ways and 
means whereby we may be assistant and useful to ourselves 
and the rest of the reformed cities ; provided we watch all 
opportunities, that God shall put into our hands, and be not 
wanting to lay hold of them. In the mean time we cannot 
without an extreme and penetrating sorrow forbear putting 
your highness in mind how unmercifully the Duke of Savoy 
has persecuted his own subjects, professing the orthodox 
faith, in certain valleys, at the feet of the Alps."* 

After detailing as he does, in all his letters on this sub- 
ject, the sufferings of the persecuted Waldenses, he adds,— 
" These things, as they have already been related to your 
highness, so we readily assure ourselves that so much cruelty 
* Prose Works, vol. ii. p. 201. 


cannot but be grievously displeasing fo your ears, and that 
you mil not be wanting to afford your aid and succour to 
those miserable wretches, if there be any that survive so 
many slaughters and calamities. For our parts we 
kave written to the Duke of Savoy, beseeching him to re- 
mote his incensed anger from his subjects; as also to the 
King of France, that he would vouchsafe to do the same ; 
and, lastly, to the princes of the reformed religion, to the 
end they might understand our sentiments concerning so 
mil and savage a piece of cruelty. Which, though first 
begun upon those poor and helpless people, however threat- 
ens all that profess the same religion, and therefore imposes 
vpon all a greater necessity of providing for themselves in 
general, and consulting the common safety ; which is the 
course that we shall always follow, as God shall be pleased 
to direct us."* 

His appeal to Oustavus of Sweden is in a bolder tone : — 
M Now there is nobody can be ignorant that the kings of the 
Swedes have always joined with the reformed, carrying 
their victorious arms into Germany in defence of the Pro- 
testants without distinction. Therefore we make it our 
chief request, and that in a more especial manner to your 
majesty, that you would solicit the Duke of Savoy by letters; 
and, by interposing yfcur intermediating authority, endea- 
vour to avert the horrid cruelty of this edict, if possible, 
from people no less innocent than religious. For we think 
it superfluous to admonish your majesty whither these rigor- 
ous beginnings tend, and what they threaten to all the Pro- 
testants in general. But if he rather choose to listen to his 
anger, than to our joint entreaties and intercessions ; if there 
be any tie, any charity or communion of religion to be be- 
lieved and worshipped, upon consultations duly first commu- 
nicated to your majesty, and the chief of the Protestant 
princes, some other course is to be speedily taken, that such 
multitude of our innocent brethren may not 
• Prose Works, toL ii. p. %ft. 


miserably perish for want of succour and assistance. "Which, 
in regard we make no question but that it is your majesty's 
opinion and determination, there can be nothing in our 
opinion more prudently resolved, than to join our reputa- 
tion, authority, counsels, forces, and whatever else is need- 
ful, with all the speed that may be, in pursuance of so pious 
a design. In the mean time, we beseech Almighty God to 
bless your majesty ."* 

Without any direct denunciation of war, he adopts a simi- 
lar tone towards other states. His letter to Holland closes 
with the following words : — " We are ready to take suck 
other course and counsels with yourselves, in common with 
the rest of our reformed Mends and confederates, as may be 
most necessary for the preservation of just and good men, 
upon the brink of inevitable ruin; and to make the duke 
himself sensible that we can no longer neglect the heavy 
oppressions and calamities of our orthodox brethren."t 

To the Protestant cantons of Switzerland he says, refer- 
ring to the duke, — " But if his mind be obstinately bent to 
other determinations, we are ready to communicate our con- 
sultations with yours, by what most prevalent means to re- 
lieve and re-establish most innocent men, and our most 
dearly beloved brethren in Christ, tormented and overlaid 
with so many wrongs and oppressions, and preserve them 
from inevitable and undeserved ruin. Of whose welfare and 
safety, as I am assured, that you, according to your wonted 
piety, are most cordially tender; so, for our own parts, we 
cannot but in our opinion prefer their preservation before our 
most important interests, even the safeguard of onr own 

Of the King of France he especially requests, "that you will 
afford a secure sanctuary and shelter within your kingdom 
to all those miserable exiles that shall fly to your majesty 
for protection, and that you will not give permission to any 
of your subjects to assist the Duke of Savoy to their prejudice." 
* Prose Works, vol. ii. p. 258. + Ibid. p. 265. J Tbid. p. 266. 


To Frederick III., King of Denmark, he proposes co- 
operation in a more active resistance. And to the Senate 
of Geneva, as being nearest to the scene of persecution, he 
transmits two thousand pounds, not from the national re- 
venue, hut wisely raised by voluntary subscription, to be 
distributed by them, for the immediate relief of the sufferers. 

It has been already observed, that the inner and more pri- 
vate feelings of Milton's mind found their expression in his 
sonnets. One of these is devoted to the sufferings of these 
persecuted Christians, and affords a further indication of 
the deep sympathy he felt in their wrongs. 


" Avenge, O Lord, thy slaughtered saints, whose bones 
Lie scattered on the Alpine mountains cold; 
Even them who kept thy truth so pure of old, 
When all our fathers worship'd stocks and stones, 

Forget not : in thy book record their groans 

Who were thy sheep, and in their ancient fold 
Slain by the bloody Piedmontese that roll'd 
Mother with infant down the rocks. Their moans 

The vales redoubled to the hills, and they 

To Heaven. Their martyr'd blood and ashes sow 
O'er all the Italian fields, where still doth sway 

The triple tyrant; that from these may grow 

A hundred fold ; who having learn'd thy way, 
Early may fly the Babylonian woe." 

These tender and generous sentiments, justify the love 
which mingles with our admiration of this incomparable 
man. His political writings, less applicable to days of con- 
stitutional rule and popular freedom, may be regarded in- 
deed as models of eloquent composition, but in other re- 
spects comparatively as historic curiosities. His ecclesias-* 
tical writings will be coeval with the Christianity which 
they illustrate ; and his letters of state will grow in esteem 
with the growth of Britain in freedom and moral eleva- 
tion, and will ever be looked back upon as contributing no 
insignificant rays to the effulgence that halos this precious 



period of our national history. The annals of that era are 
illuminated with names consecrated to the homage of pos- 
terity , by the various claims of genius, piety, and learning,— 
Newton and Barrow, Baxter, Taylor, and Bunyan, Hobbes, 
Clarendon, and South, but the name of Milton will fix the 
gaze of all ages as the cynosure of that bright constellation. 



Milton's respite from the warfare of controversy was 
destined to be of short duration. The Presbyterians, hostile 
to the Parliament on account of the sentiments of religious 
liberty with which they were animated, were availing them- 
selves of* the feelings awakened by the execution of Charles 
to deepen disaffection to the government. Their efforts were 
seconded from an unexpected quarter. A book was published 
which purported to be the production of the king, and bore 
the Greek title, "Eikon Basilike\ the Portraiture of his 
Sacred Majesty in his Solitudes and Sufferings. 1 ' So great 
was the curiosity excited by this book, which was then 
. supposed to have been really written by Charles the First in 
his own defence, that forty-seven editions of it, amounting to 
forty-eight thousand five hundred copies, were disposed of 
in a single year. The Parliament were naturally appre- 
hensive lest the effect of this should be to interrupt the 
peice and prosperity which, under their auspices, were be- 
ginning to be re-established. They therefore intrusted fo 



Milton the task of exposing and confuting the mis-state- 
ments and sophisms it contained. 

Milton's reply was entitled " Eikonoklastes," the selection 
of which name he thus explains : — " In one thing I most 
commend his openness, who gave the title to this book, 
EiKcbv Bao-iXi*^, that is to say, The King's Image; and 
by the shrine he dresses out for him, certainly would bate 
the people come and worship him. For which reason this 
answer also is entitled, ' Eikonoklastes,' the famous surname 
of many Greek emperors, who, in their zeal to the command 
of God, after long tradition of idolatry in the church, took 
courage and broke all superstitious images to pieces."* 

Respecting the authorship of the "Eikon," there seems 
but little room for reasonable doubt The multitudes who 
bought and devoured it on its first appearance doubtiest 
regarded it as the genuine production of Charles ; and Br. 
South, in one of his Sermons on the Anniversary of the 
King's Execution, gives a somewhat fantastic reason for the 
same belief, viz. that no one else could have written it 
" For," he adds, " it is composed with such an unfailing 
majesty of diction, that it seems to have been written rather 
with a sceptre than a pen." There is abundant proof that 
it was the production of one Dr. Gauden. This, however, 
was not demonstrated until after the Restoration, though 
Milton, in several passages, shows that his sagacity was not 
imposed upon by the forgery. Nevertheless, he follows his 
antagonist closely, chapter by chapter, through every stage 
of Charles's reign, laying open the falsity of his histories! 
statements and suppressions, and driving away his sanc- 
timonious pretensions before a storm of indignant satire. 
Notwithstanding this, Milton affirmed with perfect trntk, 
" I did not insult over fallen majesty, as is pretended. I 
only preferred Queen Truth to King Charles. The charge 
of insult, which I foresaw that the malevolent would urge, 

• Prose Works, vol. i. p. 318. 


EXK0N0KLA8TE8. 163 

[ was at some pains to remove in the beginning of the 
work. ; and so often as possible in other places." 

The passage to which he here more particularly refers, is 
Ike opening paragraph of the book, which, as exemplifying 
ike dignified feeling with which he entered en this painful 
lervice, should be presented in this place. It is as follows: — 
* To descant on the misfortunes of a person fallen from so 
sigh, a dignity, who hath also paid his final debt bot)i to 
lature and his faults, is neither of itself a thing commend- 
able, nor the intention of this discourse. Neither was it 
bud ambition, nor the vanity to get a name, present or 
with, posterity, by writing against a king. I never was so 
thirsty after fame, nor so destitute of other hopes and 
roffffna, better and more certain to attain it ; for kings have 
gained glorious titles from their favourers by -writing 
against private men, as Henry Vlll. did against Luther ; 
but no man ever gained much honour by writing against a 
king, as not usually meeting with that force of argument in 
such courtly antagonists, which to convince might add to 
his reputation. Kings most commonly, though strong in 
legions, are but weak at argument ; as they who ever have 
aeenstomed from their cradle to use their will only as their 
right hand, their reason always as their left. Whence un- 
expectedly constrained to that kind of combat, they prove 
but weak and puny adversaries: nevertheless, for their 
sakes, who through custom, simplicity, or want of better 
teaching, have not more seriously considered kings, than in 
the gaudy name of majesty, and admire them and their 
doings, as if they breathed not the same breath with other 
mortal men, I shall make no scruple to take up (for it seems 
to he the challenge both of him and all his party) to take 
up this gauntlet, though a king's, in the behalf of liberty 
and the commonwealth."* 

The "Eikonoklastes" was re-edited by Richard Baron, in 
1756, who prefaced it with a brief dissertation, written with ^ 
• Prow Works, vol. i. p. 807, 8(>8. 


great earnestness, and commending the work to the special 
study of his countrymen. "With reference to the mere com- 
position he says: — "The great Milton has a style of his 
own, one lit to express the astonishing sublimity of his 
thoughts, the mighty vigour of his spirit, and that copia of 
invention, that redundancy of imagination, which no 
writer before or since hath equalled. In some places, it ii 
confessed, that his periods arc too long, which renders him 
intricate, if not altogether unintelligible, to vulgar readers; 
but these places are not many. In the book before us his 
style is for the most part free and easy, and it abounds both 
in eloquence, and wit, and argument-. I am of opinion, that 
the style of this work is the best and most perfect of all his 
prose writings." On the same subject, Mr. St. John remarks, 
with his usual discrimination, — " The 4 Eikonoklastes' 
abounds in passages cf peculiar sweetness and harmony— 
in short sentences— abrupt transitions — interrogations- 
unrounded periods, purposely introduced where the most 
consummate art would have them placed, to break up the 
surface of the style, and banish monotony. But why need 
I dwell on the mere mechanism of his language ? Though 
frequently attentive to this point, he trusted — too much 
perhaps — to other beauties, of a higher kind, inasmuch as 
what delights the intellect must be superior to what only 
charms the ear; and instead of periods, turned with un- 
rivalled skill, unfolds before the mental eye a style glowing 
with imagery, animated, vehement, instiuct in all its parts 
with life." 

The structure of this work, consisting a3 it does of 
twenty-eight historical chapters, does not admit of a con- 
cise analysis, and the notice already bestowed upon it must 
therefore suffice. 

The interest excited by the " Eikon BasilikeV* and not 
less, perhaps, the triumphant power of the "Eikonoklastes,' 
stimulated the exiled Prince Charles still further to attempt 
the conciliation of the sympathies of his country to tht 


fortunes of (he deposed house. With this view he applied 
to Claude De Saumaise, better known by his Latinized name 
of Salmasius, then a professor in the University of Leyden, 
to undertake the cause of British royalty. The application 
was accompanied with a present of a hundred jacobuses, 
which probably had far less influence in determining the 
decision of the professor than the honour of advocating the 
cause of the heir apparent lo the throne of England. At 
all events, in an evil hour he acceded to the proposal. 
Salmasius was a man of extensive and curious learning, but 
of essential littleness of character, and of egregious and 
importunate vanity; as the result of both he was insolent 
and pedantic. Had he never been drawn into this contro- 
versy, he would have only survived in the prying interest 
of the book- worm ; as it is, he is immortalized like Icarus, 
and will be coeval with Milton as a captive chained to 
(he triumphant chariot of his fame. 

The work of Salmasius was published in the Latin 
language, and was entitled" A ltoyai Defence, addressed 
to Charles II., on behalf of Charles I." It was deemed 
necessary by the Council of State that this production 
should be replied to in the name of the Commonwealth, 
and Milton was again summoned forth to defend the 
liberties of his country. His reply, entitled »' A # Defence 
of the People of England," is the work by which he was 
best known to contemporary European states, and which of 
all hi3 prose writings is still the one most popularly asso- 
ciated with his name. It is one of the noblest efforts of the 
human mind, displaying the unexampled combination of 
patriotism without nationality, religious independence 
without bigotry, erudition without pedantry, and severity 
without malice. In the conscious and excited power of his 
genius, he paralyses his victim with the shock of argument, 
dwindles him to insignificance by dignity of demeanour, 
holds him up by his wit to the ridicule of the world, 
lashes him with his satire, and finally slays him m\h> Vd& 


eloquence, and buries Mm beneath a tumulus of learning. 
This terrible overthrow, combined with the manifest ap- 
preciation of it by Queen Christina of Sweden, whose pre- 
vious favours towards him, passed, as has been suspected, 
the bounds of modesty, is said to have cost Salmasius Us 
life, and certainly involved a sacrifice to Milton far more 
deplored by posterity than the death of any court parasite, 
whether domestic or foreign. 

Unfortunately for Salmasius, his seduction by Charles 
II. involved the sin of political apostasy, and thus 
placed the previous writings of the hired advocate at the 
disposal of Milton, as an arsenal of poisoned weapons. Of 
these he avails himself with unsparing fidelity. It has 
already been shown how deeply ecclesiastical polities 
entered into the great question at issue ; and as Salmasiui 
had already publicly committed himself, Milton demolishes 
in his preface all the courtly adulations in which the future 
monarch is promised a spiritual as well as a political 
ascendancy, by quoting his own words against him: — u There 
are most weighty reasons why the church ought to lay 
aside episcopacy, and return to the apostolical institution 
of presbyters : that a far greater mischief has been intro- 
duced into the church by episcopacy, than the schisms 
themselves were, which were before apprehended : that the 
plague which episcopacy introduced, depressed the whole 
body of the church under a miserable tyranny : nay, had 
put a yoke even upon the necks of kings and princes : that 
it would be more beneficial to the church, if the whole 
hierarchy itself were extirpated, than if the pope only, whe 
is the head of it, were laid aside."* 

In subsequently pursuing the same argument, in its more 
general aspect, he is naturally led to animadvert on the 
principles of the Presbyterians, which virtually coincided 
with the despotic dogmas of his chief antagonist. " They now 
complain," he says, "that the sectaries are not extirpated; 


which is a most absurd thing to expect the magistrates 
should be able to do, who never yet were able, do what they 
could, to extirpate avarice and ambition, those two most 
pernicious heresies, and more destructive to the church than 
all the rest, out of the very order and tribe of the ministers 
themselves. For the sects which they inveigh against, I 
confess there are such amongst us; but they are obscure, and 
make no noise in the world : the sects that they are of, are 
public and notorious, and much more dangerous to the 
church of God. Simon Magus and Diotrephes were the 
ringleaders of them. Yet are we so far from persecuting 
these men, though they are pestilent enough, that though 
we know them to be ill-affected to the government, and 
desirous of and endeavouring to work a change, we allow 
them but too much liberty."* 

The necessities of the case drove Salmasius to commit 
himself, without reservation, to the dogma of the Divine right 
of kings, an absurdity which we have subsequently been 
taught, by no mean ecclesiastical authority,t to identify with 
the Divine right of policemen and parish beadles. The es- 
sence of Milton's arguments, pursued throughout this treatise 
against this doctrine, may be thus concisely stated : — Civil go- 
vernment is indeed a Divine ordination, and as such demands 
a universal homage ; but its claims are regulated by the same 
fundamental moral principles which bind the duties of sub- 
jects, and control individual action ; that the powers that be, 
varying as they do with the vicissitudes of circumstance, are 
not to be regarded as individuals, but as functions subsisting 
under the conditions of unalterable law; that both parties in 
the social compact are bound by the same cardinal obliga- 
tions, and that their claims and duties are strictly correlative. 
The violation of all laws, human and Divine, on the part of 
the first Charles, drove Salmasius for mere shelter to the 
doctrine of Divine right of kings ; and the same melancholy 
history supplied Milton with the aptest illustration of the 
* Prose Works, vol. i. p. 27. + Archdeacon Paley. 


great principle he maintained. " If," he says, " whatever a 
king has a mind to do, the right of kings will bear him out 
in, (which was a lesson that the bloody tyrant, Antoninus 
Caracalla, though his step-mother Julia preached it to him, 
and endeavoured to inure him to the practice of it, by mak- 
ing him commit incest with herself, yet could hardly suck 
in,) then there neither is, nor ever was, that king, that 
deserved the name of a tyrant. They may safely violate all 
the laws of God and man: their very being kings keeps 
them innocent. What crime was ever any of them guilty 
of ? They did but make use of their own right upon their 
own vassals. No king can commit such horrible cruelties 
and outrages, as will not be within this right of kings. So 
that there is no pretence left for any complaints or expos- 
tulations with any of them. And dare you assert, that 
1 this right of kings,' as you call it, ' is grounded upon the 
law of nations, or rather upon that of nature,' you brute 
beast? for you deserve not the name of a man, that are so 
cruel and unjust towards all those of your own kind ; that 
endeavour, as much as in you lies, so to bear down and vilify 
the whole race of mankind, that were made after the image 
of God, as to assert and maintain those cruel and unmerciful 
taskmasters, that through the superstitious whimsies, or 
sloth, or treachery of some persons, get into the chair, are 
provided and appointed by Nature herself, that mild and 
gentle mother of us all, to be the governors of those nations 
they enslave. B y which pestilent doctrine of yours, having 
rendered them more fierce and un tractable, you not only 
enable them to make havoc of, and trample under foot, their 
miserable subjects ; but endeavour to arm them for that very 
purpose with the law of nature, the right of kings, and the 
very constitutions of government, than which nothing can 
be more impious or ridiculous."* And so again, "Bad kings 
indeed, though to cast some terror into people's minds, and 
beget a reverence of themselves, they declare to the world, 
* Prose Works, vol i. pp. 31, 3$. 


that God only is the author of kingly government; in their 
hearts and minds they reverence no other deity but that of 
Fortune, according to that passage in Horace : 

'Te Dacus asper, te profugi Scythae, 

Regumque matres barbarorum, et 

Purpurei metuunt tyranni. 
In'urioso ne pede proruas 
Stan tern col urn nam, neu populus frequens 

Ad arma cessantes, ad arm a 

Concitet, imperiumque frangat' 

"So that if it is by God that kings now-a-days reign, it is 
by God too that the people assert their own liberty ; since 
all things are of him and by him. I am sure the Scripture 
bears witness to both ; that by him kings reign, and that by 
him they are cast down from their thrones. And yet expe- 
rience teaches us, that both these things are brought about 
by the people, oftener than by God. Be this right of kings, 
therefore, what it may, the right of the people is as much 
from God as it. And whenever any people, without some 
visible designation of God himself, appoint a king over them, 
they have the same right to put him down, that they had 
to set him up at first. And certainly it is a more godlike 
action to depose a tyrant than to set up one: and there 
appears much more of God in the people, when they depose 
an unjust prince, than in a king that oppresses an innoeent 
people. Nay the people have a warrant from God to judge 
wicked princes; for God has conferred this very honour 
upon those that are dear to him, that, celebrating the praises 
of Christ their own king, * they shall bind in chains the 
kings of the nations,' (under which appellation ull tyrants 
under the gospel are included,) ' and execute the judgments 
written upon them that challenge to themselves an exemp- 
tion from all written laws/ Psa. cxlix. So that there is 
but little reason left for that wicked and foolish opinion, 
that kings, who commonly are the worst of men, should be 
so high in God's account, as that he should have put the 
world under them, to be at their beck, and be {governed 


according to their humour; and that for their rakes alone 
he should have reduced all mankind, whom he made after 
his own image, into the same condition with brutes.''* 

These principles he fortifies according to his custom, not 
only by numerous quotations from classical literature, but 
by passages adduced with much reverence from the Scrip- 
tures, both of the Old and New Testament, and adds to these, 
illustrations from the history of the middle ages, which 
exhibit an almost oppressive amount of erudition. These 
he intersperses with such withering denunciations of the 
base servility of his opponent, as no reader in the present 
day can regard but as blemishes on this incomparable per- 
formance, and ever and anon with reminiscent allusions to 
the circumstances of his own country, of singular power and 
beauty. Of these the following, occurring in the midst of 
an historical dissertation, may be taken as an example : — 
" Certainly if nature teaches us rather to endure the govern- 
ment of a king, though he be never so bad, than to endanger 
the lives of a great many men in the recovery of our liberty; 
it must teach us likewise not only to endure a kingly govern- 
ment, which is the only one that you argue ought to be 
submitted to, but even an aristocracy and a democracy: nay, 
and sometimes it will persuade us, to submit to a multitude 
of highwaymen, and to slaves that mutiny. Fulvius and 
Rupilius, if your principles had been received in their days, 
must not have engaged in the servile war (as their writers 
call it) after the Praetorian armies were slain ; Grassus must 
not have marched against Spartacus, after the rebels had 
destroyed one Roman army, and spoiled their tents; nor 
must Pompey have undertaken the Piratic war. But the 
state of Home must have pursued the dictates of nature, and 
must have submitted to their own slaves, or to the pirates, 
rather than run the hazard of losing some men's lives. Yos 
do not prove at all, that nature has imprinted any such 
notion as this of yours on the minds of men : and yet you 
• Prose Works, vol i. pp. 47--49. 


cannot forbear boding to ill luck, and denouncing the wrath 
cf God against to, (which may heaven divert, and inflict it 
upon yourself, and all such prognosticators as you!) who 
have punished as he deserved, one that had the name of our 
king, but was in met our implacable enemy ; and we have 
made atonement for the death of so many of our country- 
men, as our civil wars have occasioned, by shedding his 
blood, that was the author and cause of them."* And again, 
in commenting on the expressed desire of Salmasius to see 
the secular domination of bishops re-established in England, 
he vents his indignation in the following language : — " O 
villain ! have some regard at least to your own conscience; 
remember before it be too late, if at least this admonition of 
mine come not too late, — remember that this mocking the 
Holy Spirit of God is an inexpiable crime, and will not be 
left unpunished. Stop at last, and set bounds to your fdry, 
lest the wrath of God lay hold upon you suddenly, for en- 
deavouring to deliver the flock of God, his anointed ones 
that are not to be touched, to enemies and cruel tyrants, to 
be crushed and trampled on again, from whom himself by 
a high and stretched-out arm had so lately delivered them ; 
and from whom you yourself maintained that they ought to 
be delivered, I know not whether for any good of theirs, or 
in order to the hardening of your own heart, and to further 
your own damnation. If the bishops have no right to lord 
it over the church, certainly much less have kings, whatever 
the laws of men may be to the contrary. For they that 
know anything of the gospel know thus much, that the 
government of the church is altogether Divine and spiritual, 
and no civil constitution."! 

The " Defence of the People of England" concludes with the 
following noble exhortation: — "And now I think, through 
God's assistance, I have finished the work I undertook, to 
wit, the defence of the noble actions of my countrymen at 
home and abroad, against the raging and envious madness 
• Prose Works, vol. i. pp. 118, 110. \ Dridu to* WM&* 


of this distracted sophister ; and the asserting of the common 
rights of the people against the unjust domination of kings, 
not out of any hatred to kings, hut tyrants: nor have I 
purposely left unanswered any one argument alleged hy my 
adversary, nor any one example or authority quoted by him, 
that seemed to have any force in it, or the least colour of an 
argument. Perhaps 1 have been guilty rather of the other 
extreme, of replying to some of his fooleries and trifles, as if 
they were solid arguments, and uereby may seem to have 
attributed more to them than they deserved. One thing 
yet remains to be done, which perhaps is of the greatest 
eoncern of all, and that is, that you, my countrymen, refute 
this adversary of yours yourselves, which I do not see any 
other means of your effecting, than by a constant endeavour 
to outdo all men's bad words by your own good deeds. 
When you laboured under more sorts of oppression than one, 
you betook yourselves to God for refuge, and he was gra- 
ciously pleased to hear your most earnest prayer and desires. 
He has gloriously delivered you, the first of nations, from 
the two greatest mischiefs of this life, and most pernicious 
to virtue, tyranny, and superstition : he has endued you with 
greatness of mind to be the first of mankind, who after 
having conquered their own king, and having had him 
delivered into their hands, have not scrupled to condemn 
him judicially, and, pursuant to that sentence of condemna- 
tion, to put him to death. After the performing so glorious 
an action as this, you ought to do nothing that is mean and 
little, not so much as to think of, much less to do, anything 
but what is great and sublime. "Which to attain to, this is 
your only way : as you have subdued your enemies in the 
field, so to make appear, that unarmed, and in the highest 
outward peace and tranquillity, you of all mankind are best 
able to subdue ambition, avarice, the love of riches, and can 
best avoid the corruptions that prosperity is apt to introduce 
(which generally subdue and triumph over other nations,) 
to show as great justice, temperance, and moderation in the 


maintaining your liberty, as you have shown courage in 
freeing yourselves from slavery. These are the only argu- 
ments, by which you will be able to evince, that you are not 
such persons as this fellow represents you— traitors, robbers, 
murderers, parricides, madmen ; that you did not put your 
king to death out of any ambitious design, or a desire of 
invading the rights of others; not out of any seditious prin- 
ciples or sinister ends ; that it was not an act of fury or 
madness ; but that it was wholly out of love to your liberty, 
your religion, to justice, virtue, and your country, that you 
punished a tyrant. But if it should fall out otherwise, 
(which God forbid) ; if as you have been valiant in war, you 
should giow debauched in peace, you that have had such 
visible demonstrations of the goodness of God to yourselves, 
and his wrath against your enemies ; and that you should 
not have learned by so eminent, so remarkable an example 
before your eyes, to fear God, and work righteousness; for 
my part, I shall easily grant and confess (for I cannot deny 
it), whatever ill men may speak or think of you, to be very 
true. And you will find in a little time, that God's displea- 
sure against you will be greater than it has been against 
your adversaries, greater than his grace and favour has been 
•to yourselves, which you have had larger experience of than 
any other nation under heaven."* 

* Prose Works, vol. i. pp. 212, 213. 





The " Defence of the People of England," written as it was 
in, Latin, was received with unbounded admiration by the 
learned world, both at home and abroad. The most eminent 
men of the Continent, imbued with the growing spirit of 
freedom, showered their praises upon the conqueror of Sal- 
masius, and all the ambassadors of foreign states in London 
waited upon him, to offer the tribute of their congratulation. 

It is necessary now to revert to Milton's private history. 
On his appointment to the office of Foreign Secretary, he 
removed to a lodging at Charing Cross, and subsequently to 
apartments in Scotland-yard. Here his family was increased 
by the birth of a son, who died in his infancy, on the 16th 
of March, 1650. In 1652 he took a residence in Petty 
France, a site now occupied by Charles Street, Westminster, 
where he resided for eight years, till the crisis of the 
Restoration ;— a handsome house opening into St. James's 
Park, and adjoining to the mansion of Lord Scudamore. 
On the 2nd of May, in this year, his wife gave birth to his 
third daughter, Deborah, and died in her confinement. 

The eyesight of Milton had been defective from a very 
early period in his life. He himself states, in one of the 


brief matches of autobiography which occur in his prose 
writings, that it had received a lasting injury from the 
studies which he was suffered to prosecute at night, when 
not more than ten or twelve years of age. When he was 
called upon to write his "Defence of the People of 
England," he was distinctly warned by his physicians, that 
the prosecution of his design would involve the inevitable 
loss of his sight To this condition he deliberately sub- 
mitted, and the result unhappily justified the predictions of 
his medical advisers. The precise time at which he lost his 
sight is not ascertained, — a fact which is the less remarkable, 
as the decay of the organ was in all probability gradual. 
His own notices of the event, however, constitute a most 
interesting portion of his biography. 

Among the distinguished men who sought the honour of 
his friendship, after the publication of his " Defence of the 
People of England," was Leonardi Philaras, then am- 
bassador from the Duke of Parma to the Court of Paris. 
This gentleman having recommended, in a letter to Milton, 
the services of Thevenot, an eminent oculist in Paris, Milton 
addressed to him the following letter : — 

" To Leonard Philaras, the Athenian. 

u I HAVE always been devotedly attached to the literature 
of Greece, and particularly to that of your Athens ; and 
have never ceased to cherish the persuasion that that city 
would one day make me ample recompense for the warmth 
of my regard. The ancient genius of your renowned 
country has favoured the completion of my prophecy in 
presenting me with your friendship and esteem. Though I 
was known to you only by my writings, and we were 
removed to such a distance from each other, you most 
courteously addressed me by letter ; and when you unex- 
pectedly came to London, and saw me who could no longer 
see, my affliction, which causes none to regard me with 
greater admiration, and perhaps many even with feelings 

176 joror mtltotc. 

of contempt, excited your tenderest sympathy and concern. 
You would not suffer me to abandon the hope cf recovering 
my sight ; and informed me that you had an intimate friend 
at Paris, Doctor Thevenot, who was particularly celebrated in 
disorders of the eyes, whom you would consult about mine, 
if I would enable you to lay before him the causes and 
symptoms of the complaint. I will do what yon desire, 
lest I should seem to reject that aid which perhaps may be 
offered me by Heaven. It is now, I think, about ten yean 
since I perceived my vision to grow weak and dull ; and at 
the same time I was troubled with pain in my kidneys and 
bowels, accompanied with flatulency. In the morning, if I 
began to read, as was my custom, my eyes instantly ached 
intensely, but were refreshed after a little corporeal exer- 
cise. The candle which I looked at, seemed as it were 
encircled with a rainbow. Not long after, the sight in the 
left part of the left eye (which I lost some years before the 
other) became quite obscured, and prevented me from dis- 
cerning any object on that side. The sight in my other eye 
has now been gradually and sensibly vanishing away for 
about three years. Some months before it had entirely 
pciished, though I stood motionless, everything which I 
looked at seemed in motion to and fro. A stiff cloudy 
vapour seemed to have settled on my forehead and temples, 
which usually occasions a sort of somnolent pressure upon 
my eyes, and particularly from dinner till the evening. So 
that I often recollect what is said of the poet Phineas in 
the Argonauctics : — 

4 A stupor deep his cloudy temples bound, 
And when he walk'd he seem'd as whirling round, 
Or in a feeble trance he speechless lay/ 

I ought not to omit that while I had any sight left, as soot 
as 1 lay down on my bed and turned on either side, a flooi 
of light used to gush from my closed eyelids. Then, as my 
sight became daily more impaired, the colours became mat 
faint, and were emitted with a certain inward cracking 

HIS L088 OP SIGHT. 177 

sound) bat at present, every species of illumination being, 
as it were, extinguished, there is diffused around me nothing 
but darkness, or darkness mingled and streaked with an 
ashy brown. Yet the darkness in which I am perpetually 
immersed, seems always, both by night and day, to approach 
nearer to white than black ; and when the eye is rolling in 
its socket, it admits a little particle of light, as through a 
chink. And though your physician may kindle a small ray 
of hope,, yet I make up my mind to the malady as quite 
incurable; and I often reflect, that as the wise man ad- 
monishes, days of darkness are destined to each of us, — the 
darkness which I experience, less oppressive than that of 
the tomb, is, owing to the singular goodness of the Deity, 
passed amid the pursuits of literature and the cheering 
salutations of friendship. But if, as is written, ( Man shall 
not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth 
from the mouth of God,' why may not any one acquiesce in 
the privation of his sight, when God has so amply furnished 
his mind and his conscience with eyes? While he so 
tenderly provides for me, while he so graciously leads me 
by the hand -and conducts me on the way, I will, since it is 
his pleasure, rather rejoice than repine at being blind. 
And, my dear Philaras, whatever may be the event, I wish 
you adieu with no less courage and composure than if I had 
the eyes of a lynx. 

u Wettminster, September 28, 1654."* 

Nothing can be imagined more lofty or affecting than the 
occasional references to his loss of sight which are found in 
the later writings of Milton. The following occurs in his 
" Second Defence of the People of England:"— "Thus, there- 
fore, when I was publicly solicited to write a reply to the 
Defence of the Royal Cause ; when I had to contend with 
the pressure of sickness, and with the apprehension of soon 
losing the sight of my remaining eye, and when my 
mAdioftl attendants clearly announced that if I did engage 
* Prose Works, yoL iiL pp. 607, 608. 


in the work, it would be irreparably lost, their premonitions 
caused no hesitation and inspired no dismay. I would not 
have listened to the voice, even of Esculapius himself from 
the shrine of Epidaurus, in preference to the suggestions of 
the heavenly monitor within my breast : my resolution was 
unshaken, though the alternative was either the loss of my 
sight or the desertion of my duty, and I called to mind 
those two destinies which the oracle of Delphi announced 
to the son of Thetis : — 

' For, as the goddess spake who gave me birth, 
Two fates attend me while I live on earth : 
If fixed I combat by the Trojan wall, 
Deathless mj fame, bat certain is my fall. 
If I return, beneath my native sky 
My days shall flourish long — my glory die.' 

I considered that many had purchased a less good by a 
greater evil, the meed of glory by the loss of life ; but that 
I might procure great good by little suffering ; that though 
I am blind, I might still discharge the most honourable 
duties, the performance of which, as it is something more 
durable than glory, ought to be an object of superior admi- 
ration and esteem ; I resolved, therefore, to make the short 
interval of sight which was left me to enjoy, as beneficial 
as possible to the public interest. Thus it is clear by what 
motives I was governed in the measures which I took, and 
the losses which I sustained. Let, then, the calumniators of 
the Divine goodness cease to revile, or to make me the 
object of their superstitious imaginations. Let them con- 
sider, that my situation, such as it is, is neither an object of 
my shame or my regret, that my resolutions are too firm to 
be shaken, that I am not depressed by any sense of the 
Divine displeasure j that, on the other hand, in the most 
momentous periods, I have had full experience of the 
Divine favour and protection ; and that, in the solace and 
the strength which have been infused into me from above, 
I have been enabled to do the will of God j that I may oftener 


ik on what he has bestowed, than on what he has with- 
1 ; that, in short, I am unwilling to exchange my con- 
asness of rectitude with that of any other person ; and 
; I feel the recollection a treasured store of tranquillity 

delight. But, if the choice were necessary, I would, 
prefer my blindness to yours ; yours is a cloud spread 
• the mind, which darkens both the light of reason and 
onscience ; mine keeps from my view only the coloured 
aces of things, while it leaves me at liberty to contem- 
e the beauty and stability of virtue and of truth. How 
iy things are there besides which I would not willingly 

how many which I must see against my will; and 

few which I feel any anxiety to see ! There is, as the 
itle has remarked, a way to strength through weakness, 
me, then, be the most feeble creature alive, as long as 

feebleness serves to invigorate the energies of my 
>nal and immortal spirit ; as long as in that obscurity 
hich I am enveloped, the light of the Divine presence 
3 clearly shines — then, in proportion as I am weak, 1 
l be invincibly strong; and in proportion as I am 
1, 1 shall more clearly see. O ! that I may thus be 
;cted by feebleness, and irradiated by obscurity ! And, 
ed, in my blindness, I enjoy in no inconsiderable degree 
avour of the Deity, who regards me with more tender- 
and compassion in proportion as I am able to behold 
ing but himself. Alas ! for him who insults me, who 
jns and merits public execration ! For the Divine law 
>nly shields me from injury, but almost renders me too 
d to attack ; not indeed so much from the privation of 
sight, as from the overshadowing of those heavenly 
■8 which seem to have occasioned this obscurity ; and 
b, when occasioned, he is wont to illuminate with an 
Lor light, more precious and more pure. To this I 
t>e the more tender assiduities of my friends, their 
ing attentions, their kind visits, their reverential 
vances. . • . Thus, while both God and man unite 


in. solacing me under the weight of my affliction, let no one 
lament my loss of sight in so honourable a cause."* 

These matchless eflueions of magnaminity and piety shall 
conclude with two sonnets composed in the same lofty 
strain: — 


Cyriac ! this three years' day, these eyes, though clear, 

To outward view, of blemish or of spot, 

Bereft of light, their seeing have forgot ; 
Nor to their idle orbs doth sight appear 
Of sun, or moon, or star throughout the year, 

Or man or woman ; yet I argue not 

Against Heaven's hand or will, nor bate a jot 
Of heart or hope ; but still bear up and steer 
Bight onward. What supports me, dost thou ask ? 

The conscience, Mend, to have lost them overplied 

In liberty's defence, my noble task, 
Of which all Europe rings from side to side ; 

This thought might lead me through the world's vain mask, 

Content, though blind, had I no better guide. 


When I consider how my life is spent 

Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide, 
And that one talent which is death to hide 

Lodged with me useless, though my soul more bent 

To serve therewith my Maker, and present 
My true account, lest He, returning, chide ; 
" Doth God exact day-labour, light denied ?' 

I fondly ask ; but patience, to prevent 

That murmur, soon replies : God doth not need 
Either man's work, or his own gifts ; who best 
Bear His mild yoke, they serve Him best ; His state 

Is kingly : thousands at His bidding speed, 
And post o'er land and ocean without rest : 
They also serve who only stand and wait. 

The precise time at which Milton's disease arrived at the 
crisis which deprived him of sight, is not recorded; imtw« 

* Prose Works, toL L pp. 238, 839.. 


know that it was two years after that event that he married 
Catharine, daughter of Captain Woodcock. This union ap- 
pears to have heen productive of unalloyed but short-lived 
happiness. Within a year of her marriage, this lady gave 
birth to a daughter, and died in childbed, her infant child 
surviving her but a short time. Of this brief period of 
Milton's domestic history, we have no direct information ; 
but every reader must be convinced of the depth of Milton's 
affection for his partner who peruses the following touching 
sonnet, inscribed 


Methought I saw my late espoused saint, 
Brought to me, like Alcestis from the grave, 
Whom Jove's great son to her glad husband gave, 

Rescued from death by force, though pale and faint : 

Mine, as whom, wash'd from spot of childbed taint, 
Purification in the old law did save, 
And such, as yet once more I trust to have 

Full sight of her in heaven without restraint: — 
Came, vested all in white, pure as her mind : 

Her face was veil'd, yet, to my fancied sight, 
Love, sweetness, goodness, in her person shined 

So clear, as in no face with more delight ; 
But, O, as to embrace me she inclined, 

I waked, — she fled, and day brought back my night ! 





Before the applause which had greeted Milton's " Defence 
of the People of England" had subsided, he was summoned 
by the Parliament to a second and similar exertion of his 
powers. The conspicuous* defeat of Salmasius had deterred 
all men of similar pretensions to his, from assailing the 
British government, and defending the cause of the exiled 
house of Stuart. The latter party, therefore, availed them, 
selves of the maxim of Celsus — Fiat experimentum in corpore 
vili — and put forward an obscure French clergyman, of the 
name of Dumoulin, who, to escape from the avenging Neme- 
sis of British freedom, affiliated his venal work on a still 
more insignificant person, one Alexander More. It was 
entitled " Begii Sanguinis Clamor ad Coelum adversus Par- 
ricidas Anglicanos," or " The Cry of Royal Blood to Heaven 
against the English Parricides." More was of Scotch ex- 
traction, but was settled in France, and, owing to this entire 
controversy having been conducted in the then universal 
language of Europe, is better known by the Latinized name 
of Morus. His character was deeply soiled with moral and 
domestic turpitude ; and the publication which he issued was 
filled with calummousia\>matLou& against Milton — to which 


We are indebted for much of what we possess of his scanty 
autobiography— and with political sophisms and historical 
mis-statements which afforded little more than sport to the 
wit and learning of the statesman. 

The opening of the Second Defence is stately and eloquent 
to the last degree : — " A grateful recollection of the Divine 
goodness is the first of human obligations ; and extraordi-* 
nary favours demand more solemn and devout acknowledg- 
ments. With such acknowledgments I feel it my duty to 
begin this work. First, because I was born at a time when 
the irirtue of my fellow-citizens, far exceeding that of their 
progenitors in greatness of soul and vigour of enterprise, 
having invoked Heaven to witness the justice of their cause, 
and been clearly governed by its directions, has succeeded 
in delivering the commonwealth from the most grievous 
tyranny, and religion from the most ignominious degrada- 
tion. And next, because, when there suddenly arose many 
who, as is usual with the vulgar, basely calumniated the 
most illustrious achievements ; and when one, eminent above 
the rest, inflated with literary pride and the zealous applauses 
of his partisans, had, in a scandalous publication, which was 
particularly levelled against me, nefariously undertaken to 
plead the cause of despotism, I, who was neither deemed 
unequal to so renowned an adversary nor to so great a sub- 
ject, was particularly selected by the deliverers of our coun- 
try, and by the general suffrage of the public, openly to vin- 
dicate the rights of the English nation, and consequently of 
liberty itself, Lastly, because in a matter of so much mo- 
ment, and which excited such ardent expectations, I did not 
disappoint the hopes nor the opinions of my fellow-citizens ; 
while men of learning and eminence abroad honoured me 
with unmingled approbation ; while I obtained such a vic- 
tory over my opponent, that, notwithstanding his unparal- 
leled assurance, he was obliged to quit the field with his 
courage broken and his reputation lost ; and for the three 
years which he lived afterwards, much as he m&n&fi&d. «&&. 


furiously as he raved, he gave me no farther trouble, except 
that he procured the paltry aid of some despicable hirelings, 
and suborned some of his silly and extravagant admirers to 
support him under the weight of the unexpected and recent 
disgrace which he had experienced. This will immediately 
appear. Such are the signal favours which I ascribe to the 
Divine beneficence, and which I thought it right devoutly to 
commemorate, not only that I might discharge a debt of 
gratitude, but particularly because they seem auspicious to 
the success of my present undertaking. For who is there 
who does not identify the honour of his country with his 
own ? And what can conduce more to the beauty or glory 
of one's country, than the recovery, not only of its civil, but 
its religious liberty P And what nation or state ever obtained 
<r both by more successful or more valorous exertion ? For ^ 
fortitude is seen resplendent, not only in the field ofbattle 
and amid the clash of arms, but displays its energy under 
every difficulty and against every assailant. Those Greeks 
and Romans who are the objects of our admiration, em- 
ployed hardly any other virtue in the extirpation of tyrants, 
than that love of liberty which made them prompt in seizing 
the sword, and gave them strength to use it. With facility 
they accomplished the undertaking, amid the general shout 
of praise and joy j nor did they engage in the attempt so 
much as an enterprise of perilous and doubtful issue, as in a 
contest the most glorious in which virtue could be signal- 
ized ; which infallibly led to present recompense ; which 
bound their brows with wreaths of laurel, and consigned 
their memories to immortal fame. For as yet tyrants were 
not beheld with a superstitious reverence ; as yet they were 
not regarded with tenderness and complacency, as the vice- 
gerents or deputies of Christ, as they have suddenly professed 
to be ; as yet the vulgar, stupified by the subtle casuistry of 
the priest, had not degenerated into a state of barbarism, 
more gross than that which disgraces the most senseless 
natives of Hindostan. Fox the&& make mischievous demons, 


whose malice they cannot resist, the objects of their religions 
adoration : while those elevate impotent tyrants, in order to 
shield them from destruction, into the rank of gods ; and, to 
their own cost, consecrate the pests of the human race. But 
against this dark array of long-received opinions, supersti- 
tions, obloquy, and fears, which some dread even more than 
the enemy himself, the English had to contend ; and all this, 
under the light of better information, and favoured by an 
impulse from above, they overcame with such singular en- 
thnsiasm and bravery, that, great as were the numbers en- 
gaged in the contest, the grandeur of conception and lofti- 
ness of spirit which were universally displayed, merited for 
each, individual more than a mediocrity of fame ; and Britain, 
which was formerly styled the hot-bed of tyranny, will here- 
after deserve to be celebrated for endless ages as a soil most 
genial to the growth of liberty. During the mighty struggle, jt 
no anarchy, no licentiousness was seen ,- no illusions of glory, 1 j 
no extravagant emulation of the ancients inflamed them with 
a thirst for ideal liberty; but the rectitude of their lives, and 
the sobriety of their habits, taught them the only true and 
safe road to real liberty ; and they took up arms only to de- 
fend the sanctity of the laws and the rights of conscience." •" 

It will be obvious, that, in the concluding sentence, Milton 
is expressing his respect for the Puritans, with whose reli- 
gions sentiments and political principles he felt the closest 
sympathy. Of all classes of mankind who have played a 
conspicuous part in history, the Puritans, perhaps, have been 
the most misunderstood. The reason of this is, that they 
have been chiefly portrayed in history by those who were 
incapable of understanding their character, and committed 
by political considerations to misrepresent their conduct. 
It is not presumptuous to predict, that a day will come when 
will desiderate a fairer history of these remarkable 
, as illustrating the annals of an era which caught, un- 
taught by the beams of a later civilization, the long-obstructed 
* Prose Works, toI. i., pi>. £16—^ fc\fc. 


radiance of the apostolic age. One tribute, however, to 
their honour must ever be rescued from oblivion, by a spirit 
of eloquence imbibed from the loving study of Milton him- 
self, and as such, claiming a right to adorn these pages:— 
" The Puritans/' says Mr. Macaulay, " were men whose 
minds had derived a peculiar character from the daily coin 
templation of superior beings and eternal interests. Not 
content with acknowledging, in general terms, an overruling 
Providence, they habitually ascribed every event to the will 
of the Great Being, for whose power nothing was too vast, 
for whose inspection nothing was too minute. To know 
him, to serve him, to enjoy him, was with them the great 
end of existence. They rejected with contempt the cere- 
monious homage which other sects substituted for the pore 
worship of the soul. Instead of catching occasional glimpses 
of the Deity through an obscuring veil, they aspired to gaie 
full on the intolerable brightness, and to commune with Him 
face to face. Hence originated their contempt for terrestrial 
distinctions. The difference between the greatest and mean- 
est of mankind seemed to vanish, when compared with the 
boundless interval which separated the whole race from him 
on whom their own eyes were constantly fixed. They recog- 
nised no title to superiority but his favour ; and, confident 
of that favour, they despised all the accomplishments and all 
the dignities of the world. If they were unacquainted with 
the works of philosophers and poets, they were deeply read 
in the oracles of God. If their names were not found in the 
registers of heralds, they felt assured that they were recorded 
in the Book of Life. If their steps were not accompanied hy 
a splendid train of menials, legions of ministering angels had 
charge over them. Their palaces were houses not made with 
hands j their diadems, crowns of glory which should never 
fade away ! On the rich and the eloquent, on nobles and 
priests, they looked down with contempt ; for they esteemed 
themselves rich in a more precious treasure, and eloquent in 
a more sublime language — nobles by the right of an earlier 


creation, and priests by the imposition of a mightier hand. 
The very meanest of them was a being to whose fate a mys- 
terious and terrible importance belonged— on whose slight- 
est action the spirits of light and darkness looked with 
anxious interest, who had been destined, before heaven and 
earth were created, to enjoy a felicity which should continue 
when heaven and earth should have passed away. Events, 
which short-sighted politicians ascribed to earthly causes, 
had been ordained on his account. For his sake empires had 
risen, and flourished, and decayed. For his sake the Al- 
mighty had proclaimed His will, by the pen of the evange- 
list and the harp of the prophet. He had been wrested by 
no common deliverer from the grasp of no common foe. He 
had been ransomed by the sweat of no vulgar agony, by the 
blood of no earthly sacrifice. It was for him that the sun 
had been darkened, that the rocks had been rent, that the 
dead had arisen, that all nature had shuddered at the suf- 
ferings of her expiring God !"* 

It has been already said that the Queen of Sweden, on 
reading the controversy between Salmasius and Milton, 
openly manifested her preference for the English statesman. 
The testimonies of her previous regard for his opponent, 
while they excited the jealousy of his wife, were doubtless 
either unknown to or discredited by Milton, and he conse- 
quently honours her in this work with one of the most elo- 
quent panegyrics to be found in his writings. " How happy 
am I," he says, " beyond my utmost expectations ! (for to 
the praise of eloquence, except as far as eloquence consists 
in the force of truth, I lay no claim,) that, when the critical 
exigencies of my country demanded that 1 should undertake 
the arduous and invidious task of impugning the rights of 
kings, I should meet with so illustrious, so truly a royal 
evidence to my integrity, and to this truth, that I had not 
-written a word against kings, but only against tyrants, the 
ppots and the pests of royalty ? But you, O Augusta, pos- 
* Edinburgh Review, vol. xlii. pp. 338—840.' 


sensed not only so much magnanimity, bnt were so irradiated 
by the glorious beams of wisdom and of virtue, that you sot 
only read with patience, with incredible impartiality, with a 
serene complacency of countenance, what might seem to be 
levelled against your rights and dignity, but expressed track 
an opinion of the defender of those rights, as may well be 
considered an adjudication of the palm of victory to his op- 
ponent. You, O queen ! will for ever be the object of my 
homage, my veneration, and my love ; for it was your great- 
ness of soul, so honourable to yourself and so auspicious 
to me, which served to. efface the unfavourable impression 
against me at other courts, and to rescue me from the evil 
surmises of other sovereigns. What a high and favourable 
opinion must foreigners conceive, and your own subjects fcf 
ever entertain, of your impartiality and justice, when, in a 
matter which so nearly interested the fate of sovereigns and 
the rights of your crown, they saw you sit down to the dis- 
cussion with as much equanimity and composure, as yoa 
would to determine a dispute between two private indi- 
viduals! It was not in vain that you made such large col- 
lections of books, and so many monuments of learning— not, 
indeed, that they could contribute much to your instructioa, 
but because they so well teach your subjects to appreciate 
the merits of your reign, and the rare excellence of your vir- 
tue and your wisdom ; for the Divinity himself seems to haw 
inspired you with a love of wisdom and a thirst for improve- 
ment, beyond what any books ever could have produced. 
It excites our astonishment to see a force of intellect so truly 
divine, a particle of celestial flame so resplendently pure, is 
a region so remote ; of which an atmosphere, so darkened 
with clouds and so chilled with frosts, could not extingiriaa 
the light nor repress the operations. The rocky and barren 
soil, which is often as unfavourable to the growth of genial 
as of plants, has not impeded the maturation of your facal- 
ties ; and that country, so rich in metallic ore, which appear! 
like a cruel stepmother to others, seems to have been a ft* 


ring* parent to you, and, after the. most strenuous attempts, 
have at last produced a progeny of pure gold. I would 
rake you, Christina! as the only child of the renowned and 
ctorious Adolphus, if your merit did not as much eclipse 
s as wisdom excels strength, and the arts of peace the 
woe of war. Henceforth the queen of the south will not 
5 alone renowned in history ; for there is a queen of the 
>rth, who would not only be worthy to appear in the court 
■ the wise king of the Jews, or any king of equal wisdom, 
it to whose court others may from all parts repair, to be- 
old so fair a heroine, so bright a pattern of all the royal 
irtues ; and to the crown of whose praise this may well be 
dded, that neither in her conduct nor her appearance is 
jere any of the forbidding reserve or the ostentatious parade 
f royalty. She herself seems the least conscious of her own 
ttributes of sovereignty ; and her thoughts are always fixed 
a something greater and more sublime than the glitter of 
crown. In this respect her example may well make innu- 
merable kings hide their diminished heads. She may, if 
ach is the fatality of the Swedish nation, abdicate the sove- 
eignty, but she can never lay aside the queen ; for her reign 
ias proved, that she is fit to govern, not only Sweden, but 
he world."* 

Milton next addresses himself to the calumnies heaped 
ipon him by his unprincipled opponent ; and in replying 
x> them, records that concise autobiography which gives a 
peculiar interest to this Second Defence, and which con- 
stitutes, indeed, the skeleton of all the numerous memoirs of 
lim which have been given to the public. like the present 
sketch, it is chiefly a history of his successive works. One 
bet connected with these requires to be particularly men- 
tioned : it is said that he received a thousand pounds from 
the government. In reference to this subject Milton says : — 
< Such were the fruits of my private studies, which I gra- 
tuitously presented to the church and to the state; and for 
• Pips* Works, toJL i. pp. 240-«5i. 


which I was recompensed by nothing but impunity ; though 
the actions themselves procured me peace of conscience, and 
the approbation of the good ; while I exercised that freedom 
of discussion which I loved. Others, without labour or 
desert, got possession of honours and emoluments ; but no 
one ever knew me either soliciting anything myself or, 
through the medium of my Mends, ever beheld me in a 
supplicating posture at the doors of the senate, or the levies 
of the great. I usually kept myself secluded at home, 
where my own property, part of which had been withheld 
daring the civil commotions, and part of which had been 
absorbed in the oppressive contributions which I had to 
sustain, afforded me a scanty subsistence."* 

In another place he reiterates this affirmation : — " Know 
thou," he says, " that that aggrandisement and wealth 
which you charge against me, and that on the account on 
which you chiefly accuse me, I was never made richer by 
a single penny." The chief value of Mr. Todd's biographical 
sketch of Milton is derived from the extracts he publishes 
from the orders of council preserved in his Majesty's state 
paper office, to which the late Sir Robert Peel, then secretary 
of state, kindly permitted him the freest access. The mi- 
nutes which he reproduces from these interesting records 
fully substantiate the veracity of Milton: they are as 
follow: — " 1651, June 18. Ordered, that thanks be given 
to Mr. Milton, on the behalf of the commonwealth, for his 
good services done in writing an answer to the book of 
Salmasius, written against the proceedings of the com- 
monwealth of England." But all this is crossed over, and 
nearly three lines following are obliterated, in which a 
grant of money was made to Milton. But after the cancelled 
passage the regular entry thus follows : " The council taking 
notice of the many good services performed by John Milton, 
their secretary for foreign languages, to this state and com- 
monwealth, particularly for his book in vindication of the 
* Prose Works, vol. i. p. 260. 


parliament and people of England, against the calumnies 
and invectives of Salmasius, have thought fit to declare 
their resentment and good acceptance of the same; and 
that the thanks of the council he returned to Mr. Milton, 
and their sense represented in that behalf." 

The latter part of Milton's " Second Defence of the Peo- 
ple of England" is occupied in the defence of Cromwell from 
the short-sighted attacks of More. These he refutes by the 
most infrangible historical testimony. After citing the great 
facts which existed in the memory of that generation, he 
proceeds to say : — " He seems, for the most part, to have 
followed the worst councils, and those too of the worst 
advisers. Charles is the victim of persuasion, Charles the 
dupe of imposition, Charles the pageant of delusion ; he is 
intimidated by fear or dazzled by hope ; and carried about 
here and there, the common prey of every faction, whether 
they be friends or foes. Let them either erase these facts 
from their writings, or cease to extol the sagacity of Charles. 
Though, therefore, a superior degree of penetration is an 
honourable distinction, yet when a country is torn with 
factions, it is not without its inconveniences ; and the most 
discreet and cautious are most exposed to the calumnies 
of opposite factions. This often proved an obstacle in the 
way of Cromwell. Hence the presbyterians, and hence 
the enemy, impute every harsh treatment which they 
experience, not to the parliament, but to Cromwell alone. 
They do not even hesitate to ascribe their own indiscretions 
and miscarriages to the fraud and treachery of Cromwell ; 
against him every invective is levelled, and every censure 
passed. Indeed, the flight of Charles to the Isle of Wight, 
which took place while Cromwell was at a distance, was so 
sadden and unexpected, that he acquainted by letter every 
member then in the metropolis with the extraordinary 
occurrence. But this was the state of the case : the king, 
alarmed by the clamours of the whole army, which, neither 
softened by his entreaties nor his promises, had begun, to 


demand his punishment, he determined to make his < 
in the night, with two trusty followers. Bat more deter- 
mined to fly than rightly knowing where to fly, he was 
induced, either by the ignorance or the cowardice of his 
attendants, to surrender himself to Hammond, governor of 
the Isle of Wight, whence he thought that he might easily 
be conveyed by ship into France Or Holland. This is what 
I have learned concerning the king's flight to the Isle of 
Wight, from those who possessed the readiest means of 
obtaining information."* 

After disposing of some other charges, he commences an 
historical notice of Cromwell, followed by a noble panegyric 
which would immortalize the protector, were his military 
and political exploits expunged from the page of history. 
" In speaking of such a man/' he says, " who has merited 
so well of his country, I should do nothing if I only excul- 
pated him from crimes; particularly since it not only so nearly 
concerns the country, but even myself who am so closely im- 
plicated in the same disgrace, to evince to all nations, and, 
as far as I can, to all ages, the excellence of his character, 
and the splendour of his renown. Oliver Cromwell was 
sprung from a line of illustrious ancestors, who were distin- 
guished for the civil functions which they sustained under 
the monarchy, and still more for the part which they took 
in restoring and establishing true religion in this country. 
In the vigour and maturity of his life, which he passed is 
retirement, he was conspicuous for nothing more than for 
the strictness of his religious habits, and the innocence of 
his life ; and he had tacitly cherished in his breast thai 
flame of piety which was afterwards to stand him in so 
much stead on the greatest occasions, and in the most 
critical exigencies. In the last parliament which was called 
by the king, he was elected to represent his native town, 
when he soon became distinguished by the justness of his 
opinions, and the vigour and decision of his councils. When 
• Prose Works, vol. L pp. 283, 284. 

vnroicATioir of cboxwell. 193 

die sword was drawn, he offered his services, and was ap- 
pointed to a troop of horse, whose numbers were soon 
increased by the pious and the good, who flocked from all 
quarters to his standard; and in a short time he almost 
surpassed the greatest generals in the magnitude and the 
rapidity of his achievements. Nor is this surprising ; for 
he was a soldier disciplined to perfection in the knowledge 
of himself. He had either extinguished, or by habit had 
Learned to subdue, the whole host of vain hopes, fears, and 
passions, which infest the soul. He first acquired the go- 
vernment of himself, and over himself acquired the most 
signal victories; so that on the first day he took the field 
against the external enemy, he was a veteran in arms, con- 
summately practised in the toils and exigencies of war. It 
is not possible for me, in the narrow limits in which I 
circumscribe myself on this occasion, to enumerate the many 
towns which he has taken, the many battles which he has 
won. The whole surface of the British empire has been the 
scene of his exploits, and the theatre of his triumphs ; which 
alone would furnish ample materials for a history, and want 
a copiousness of narration not inferior to the magnitude 
and diversity of the transactions. This alone seems to be 
a sufficient proof of his extraordinary and almost super- 
natural virtue, that by the vigour of his genius, or the 
excellence of his discipline, adapted, not more to the neces- 
sities of war than to the precepts of Christianity, the good 
md the brave were from all quarters attracted to his camp, 
not only as to the best school of military talents, but of piety 
md virtue; and that during the whole war, and the occasional 
intervals of peace, amid so many vicissitudes of faction and 
of events, he retained and still retains the obedience of his 
troops, not by largesses or indulgence, but by his sole 
iuthority and the regularity of his pay. In this instance 
bis fame may rival that of Cyrus, of Epaminondas, or any 
of the great generals of antiquity. Hence he collected an 
army as numerous and as well equipped as any owa «s*st 


did in so short a time; which was uniformly obedient to his 
orders, and dear to the affections of the citizens ; which was 
formidable to the enemy in the field, bat never cruel to 
those who laid down their arms ; which committed no lawks 
ravages on the persons or the property of the inhabitants; 
who, when they compared their conduct with the turbulence, 
the intemperance, the impiety, and the debauchery of tie 
royalists, were wont to salute them as Mends, and to con- 
sider them as guests. They were a stay to the good, a 
terror to the evil, and the warmest advocates for every 
exertion of piety and virtue. Nor would it be right to pass 
over the name of Fairfax, who united the utmost fortitude 
with the utmost courage ; and the spotless innocence of 
whose life seemed to point him out as the peculiar favourite 
of Heaven. Justly, indeed, may you be excited to receive 
this wreath of praise ; though you have retired as much as 
possible from the world, and seek those shades of privacy 
which were the delight of Scipio. Nor was it only the 
enemy whom you subdued, but you have triumphed over 
that flame of ambition and that lust of glory which are 
wont to make the best and the greatest of men their slaves. 
The purity of your virtues and the splendour of your actions 
consecrate those sweets of ease which you enjoy, and which 
constitute the wished- for haven of the toils of man. Such 
was the ease which, when the heroes of antiquity possessed, 
after a life of exertion and glory not greater than yours, the 
poets, in despair of finding ideas or expressions better suited 
to the subject, feigned that they were received into heaven, 
and invited to recline at the tables of the gods. But whether 
it were your health, which I principally believe, or any other 
motive which caused you to retire, of this I am convinced, 
that nothing could have induced you to relinquish the 
of your country, if you had not known that in your 
liberty would meet with a protector, and England with t 
stay to its safety, and a pillar to its glory. For, while yon, 
Cromwell, are left among us, he hardly shows a proper 


confidence in the Supreme, who distrusts the security of 
England ; when he sees that you are in so special a manner 
the favoured object of the Divine regard. But there was 
another department of the war, which was destined for your 
exclusive exertions."* 

After detailing the main points of Cromwell's military 
administration, he thus asserts his fitness to exercise the 
duties of the chief magistracy of his country : — " In this 
state of desolation, to which we were reduced, you, O Crom- 
well, alone remained to conduct the government, and to save 
the country. We .all willingly yield the palm of sovereignty 
to your unrivalled ability and virtue, except the few among 
us, who, either ambitious of honours which they have not 
the capacity to sustain, or who envy those which are con- 
ferred on one more worthy than themselves, or else who do 
not know that nothing in the world is more pleasing to 
God, more agreeable to reason, more politically just, or 
more generally useful, than that the supreme power should 
be vested in the best and the wisest of men. Such, O 
Cromwell, all acknowledge you to be ; such are the services 
which you have rendered, as the leader of our councils, the 
general of our armies, and the father of your country. For 
this is the tender appellation by which all the good among 
ns salute you from the very soul. Other names you neither 
have nor could endure; and you deservedly reject that 
pomp of title which attracts the gaze and admiration of the 
multitude. For what is a title but a certain definite mode 
of dignity? but actions such as yours surpass, not only the 
bounds of our admiration, but our titles; and, like the 
points of pyramids, which are lost in the clouds, they soar 
above the possibilities of titular commendation. But since, 
though it be not fit, it may be expedient, that the highest 
pitch of virtue should be circumscribed within the bounds 
of some human appellation, you endured to receive, for the 
public good, a title most like to that of the father of your 
• Prose Works, vol. i. pp. 285—287. 


country ; not to exalt, bat rather to bring you nearer to thf 
level of ordinary men ; the title of king was unworthy ths 
transcendent majesty of your character. For if you had 
been captivated by a name over which, as a private man, 
you had so completely triumphed and crumbled into dost, 
you would have been doing the same thing as i£ after 
having subdued some idolatrous nation by the help of tin 
true God, you should afterwards fall down and worship 
the gods which you had vanquished."* 

To this Milton adds an exhortation which must for ever 
clear him from the charge of having yielded an unworthy 
subservience to the great man under whom he served and 
whom he so cordially admired. Nothing can exceed thf 
boldness and lofty independence of tone with which ha 
urges his exhortations on the Protector, and though tht 
quotation is long, it is due to the memory of Milton to 
present it to the reader : — " Do you then, sir, continue you 
course with the same unrivalled magnanimity ; it sits well 
upon you ; — to you our country owes its liberties $ nor can 
you sustain a character at once more momentous and mora 
august than that of the author, the guardian, and the pie- 
server of our liberties ; and hence you have not only eclipsed 
the achievements of all our kings, but even those which 
have been fabled of our heroes: Often reflect what a dear 
pledge the beloved land of your nativity has entrusted to 
your care ; and that liberty which she once expected only 
from the chosen flower of her talents and her virtues, aha 
now expects from you only, and by you only hopes to 
obtain, llevere the fond expectations which we cherish, 
the solicitudes of your anxious country; revere the looks 
and the wounds of your brave companions in arms, who, 
under your banners, have so strenuously fought for liberty; 
revere the shades of those who perished in the contest; 
revere also the opinions and the hopes which foreign atatsf 
entertain concerning us, who promise to themselves so many 
• Prose Works, vol. i. pp. 288, 388. 


vantages from that liberty which we have so bravely 
paired, from the establishment of that new government 
rich has begun to shed its splendour on the world, which, 
it be suffered to vanish like a dream, would involve us in 
o deepest abyss of shame ; and lastly, revere yourself; and, 
ter having endured so many sufferings and encountered so 
iny perils for the sake of liberty, do not suffer it, now it 
obtained, either to be violated by yourself, or in any one 
stance impaired by others. You cannot be truly free 
less we are free too ; for such is the nature of things, that 

who entrenches on the liberty of others, is the first to 
le his own and become a slave. But if you, who have 
bherto been the patron and tutelary genius of liberty, if 
a, who are exceeded by no one in justice, in piety, and 
odness, should hereafter invade that liberty which you 
ve defended, your conduct must be fatally operative, not 
ly against the cause of liberty, but the general interests 
piety and virtue. Your integrity and virtue will appear 

have evaporated, your faith in religion to have been 
tall; your character with posterity will dwindle into 
significance, by which a most destructive blow will be 
relied against the happiness of mankind. The work 
rich you have undertaken is of incalculable moment, 
rich will thoroughly sift and expose every principle and 
xsation of your heart, which will fully display the vigour 
d genius of your character, which will evince whether you 
illy possess those great qualities of piety, fidelity, justice, 
d self-denial, which made us believe that you were 
rvated by the special direction of the Deity to the highest 
made of power. At once wisely and discreetly to hold 
3 sceptre over three powerful nations, to persuade people 

relinquish inveterate and corrupt for new and more 
aeficiai maxims and institutions, to penetrate into the 
aotest parts of the country, to have the mind present and 
erative in every quarter, to watch against surprise, to 
wide against danger, to reject the btaaftdraueoXa & 

render our liberty at once more ample and mc 
And this you can, in my opinion, in no other way 
effect, as by associating in your councils the com; 
your dangers and your toils; men of exemplary 
integrity, and courage ; whose hearts have not beer 
in cruelty and rendered insensible to pity by th' 
so much ravage and so much death, but whom it '. 
inspired with the love of justice, with a respect fo 
and with the feeling of compassion, and who are 
lously interested in the preservation of liberty, in ; 
as they have encountered more perils in its defen 
are not strangers or foreigners, a hireling rou 
together from the dregs of the people ; but, for 
part, men of the better conditions in life, of fa 
disgraced if not ennobled, of fortunes either 
moderate. And what if some among them are rec< 
by their poverty ? for it was not the lust of rav 
brought them into the field; it was the calami! 
of the times, which, in the most critical circumst 
often amid the most disastrous turn of fortune, ro 


posed themselves to death in the service of their country- 
of their piety in this, that they have been always wont to 
ascribe the whole glory of their successes to the favour of 
the Deity, whose help they have so suppliantly implored, 
and so conspicuously obtained; of their justice in this, that 
they even brought the king to trial, and when his guilt was 
proved, refused to save his life; of their moderation in our 
own uniform experience of its effects, and because, if by 
any outrage they should disturb the peace which they have 
procured, they themselves will be the first to feel the miseries 
which it will occasion, the first to meet the havoc of the 
sword, and the first again to risk their lives for all those 
comforts and distinctions which they have so happily ac- 
quired; and lastly, of their fortitude in' this, that there is 
no instance of any people who ever recovered their liberty 
with so much courage and success; and therefore, let us not 
suppose, that there can be any persons who will be more 
zealous in preserving if* 

He then commemorates the merits of the distinguished 
persons who, in the past contest, which was at once religious 
and political, had sustained the general by their counsels 
and their arms. " To these men," he says, " whose talents 
are so splendid, and whose worth has been so thoroughly 
tried, you would without doubt do right to trust the pro- 
tection of our liberties; nor would it be easy to say to 
whom they might more safely be entrusted. Then, if you 
leave the church to its own government, and relieve yourself 
and the other public functionaries from a charge so onerous, 
and so incompatible with your functions; and will no 
longer suffer two powers, so different as the civil and the 
ecclesiastical, to commit fornication together, and by their 
mutual and delusive aids in appearance to strengthen, but 
in reality to weaken and finally to subvert, each other ; if 
you shall remove all power of persecution out of the church, 
(but persecution will never cease, so long as men are bribed 
* Prose Works, toL L pp, 289—291. 


to preach the gospel by a mercenary salary, which is forcibly 
extorted, rather than gratuitously bestowed, which serves 
only to poison religion and to strangle truth,) you will then 
effectually have cast those money-changers out of the temple, 
who do not merely truckle with doves, but with the Dove 
itself, with the Spirit of the Most High."* • 

After a noble address to the British people, urging them - 
to carry out the principles and support the government of \ 
Cromwell, he closes the " Second Defence of the People of 
England" with the following words : — " I have delivered my ' 
testimony, I would almost say, have erected a monument, ' 
that will not readily be destroyed, to the reality of those 
singular and mighty achievements which were above til 
praise. As the epic poet, who adheres at all to the rules of 
that species of composition, does not profess to describe the 
whole life of the hero whom he celebrates, but only some 
particular action of his life, as the resentment of Achilles at 
Troy, the return of Ulysses, or the coming of JEneas into 
Italy ; so it will be sufficient, either for my justification or 
apology, that I have heroically celebrated at least one 
exploit of my countrymen. I pass by the rest, for who 
could recite the achievements of a whole people ? If, after 
such a display of courage and of vigour, you basely relin- 
quish the path of virtue, if you do anything unworthy of 
yourselves, posterity will sit in judgment on your conduct 
They will see that the foundations were well laid ; that the 
beginning (nay, it was more than a beginning) was glorious; 
but with deep emotions of concern will they regret, that 
those were wanting who might have completed the structure. 
They will lament that perseverance was not conjoined with 
such exertions and such virtues. They will see that there 
was a rich harvest of glory, and an opportunity afforded for 
the greatest achievements, but that men only were wanting 
for the execution ; while they were not wanting who could J 
* Prose Works, vol. i. p. 298. [ 


rightly counsel, exhort, inspire, and bind an unfading 
wreath of praise round the brows of the illustrious actors 
in so glorious a scene."* 

The " Second Defence of the People of England" is in 
many respects the most valuable of Milton's prose writings. 
It is the chief repository from which we draw our informa- 
tion as to his personal history. It yields to none of his 
treatises in sustained grandeur of style. It is rich in the 
noblest sentiments of patriotism and freedom, both civil and 
religious ; and by the perusal of those eloquent panegyrics 
in which he embalms the reputation of his eminent fellow- 
workers, we are impressed at once with the candour and 
generosity of Milton, and the blind prejudice of the bio- 
grapher who could affirm, that no man who had written so 
much had praised so few. 

* Prose Works, vol. i. pp. 299, 300. 



The political aspect of this country was never more dis- 
tressing to the Mends, and portentous to the cause, of free- 
dom, than at the period to which this narrative has now 
heen conducted. The vigorous administration of Cromwell 
alone preserved the external tranquillity of the empire, and, 
under that government, the rights of the subject, and espe- 
cially the claims of religious freedom, were habitually re- 
spected; but all the elements of disorder and devastation 
existed, in unseen activity, beneath the surface of society. 
The presbyterians, deprived of political power, cherished all 
their old intolerance, exacerbated by vindictiveness. The 
royalists were not slow to perceive, that they hated inde- 
pendency — which, in this instance, may be taken as the 
exponent of religious freedom, — with even more bitterness 
than they had ever testified against prelacy in the palmy 
days of its reign of terror. Hence they reckoned, and rightly 
as the event proved, upon the speedy co-operation of that 
faction. The army, on the contrary, was chiefly composed 
of independents — men whose devotion to freedom was the 
second table of their law — the secular phase of an enthu- 
siastic religion. The death of Cromwell was the removal 


of the keystone of the uncemented arch, and the result was 
the subsidence of the whole fabric into irreparable ruin. 

The weight and value of Cromwell can only be truly esti- 
mated from the effects produced by his decease; and the 
observations of Mr. Macaulay on this point are as admirable 
for their truth as they are for their force and beauty. He 
says, " At the time of which we speak, the violence of reli- 
gious and political enemies rendered a stable and happy 
settlement next to impossible. The choice lay, not between 
Cromwell and liberty, but between Cromwell and the Stuarts. 
That Milton chose well, no man can doubt who fairly com- 
pares the events of the protectorate with those of the thirty 
years which succeeded it — the darkest and most disgraceful 
in the English annals. Cromwell was evidently laying, 
though in an irregular manner, the foundations of an admi- 
rable system. Never before had religious liberty and the 
freedom of discussion been enjoyed in a greater degree. 
Never had the national honour been better upheld abroad, 
or the seat of justice better filled at home. And it was 
rarely that any opposition, which stopped short of open re- 
bellion, provoked the resentment of the liberal and magnani- 
mous usurper. The institutions which he had established, as 
set down in the " Instrument of Government," and the " Hum- 
ble Petition and Advice," were excellent. His practice, it is 
true, too often departed from the theory of these institutions. 
But, had he lived a few years longer, it is probable that his 
institutions would have survived him, and that his arbitrary 
practice would have died with him. His power had not been 
consecrated by ancient prejudices. It was upheld only by 
his great personal qualities. Little, therefore, was to be 
dreaded from a second protector, unless he were also a second 
Oliver Cromwell. The events which followed his decease 
are the most complete vindication of those who exerted 
themselves to uphold his authority ; for his death dissolved 
the whole frame of society."* 

* Edin. Review, vol. xlii. p. 336. 


Milton saw with the deepest anxiety the perils which 
threatened that cause to which he had devoted his life, and 
for which he was calmly prepared to lay it down. He 
augured at once the religious intolerance which would grow 
with the growth of presbyterian influence, and sought to 
stay its effects by the publication of three treatises, all of 
which appeared in 1659, and within about twelve months 
after the death of the protector. The first of these is enti- 
tled, "A Treatise of the Civil Power in Ecclesiastical 

In the commencement of this latter treatise, he evidently 
refers to the former also, as equally forming part of his 
design. " Two things there be," he says, " which have 
been ever found working much mischief to the church of 
God and the advancement of truth — force on one side re- 
straining, and hire on the other side corrupting, the teachers 
thereof. Few ages have been, since the ascension of oar 
Saviour, wherein the one of these two, or both together, have 
not prevailed. It can be at no time, therefore, unseasonable 
to speak of these things, since by them the church is either 
in continual detriment and oppression, or in continual dan- 
ger. The former shall be at this time my argument ; the 
latter as I shall find God disposing me, and opportunity 

He next proceeds to lay down the general proposition to 
be proved, " That for belief or practice in religion, according 
to this conscientious persuasion, no man ought to be punished 
or molested by any outward force on earth whatsoever, I dis- 
trust not, through God's implored assistance, to make plain 
by these following arguments : — First, it cannot be denied, 
being the main foundation of our protestant religion, that we 
of these ages, having no other Divine rule or authority from 
without us, warrantable to one another as a common ground, 
but the Holy Scripture, and no other within us but the illu- 
mination of the Holy Spirit, so interpreting that scripture 
* Prose Works, vol. ii. p. 522. 


as warrantable only to ourselves, and to such whose con- 
sciences we can so persuade, can have no other ground in 
matters of religion but only from the Scriptures. And these 
being not possible to be understood without this Divine illu- 
mination, which no man can know at all times to be in 
himself, much less to be at any time for certain in any other,* 
it follows clearly, that no man or body of men in these times 
can be the infallible judges or determiners in matters of 
religion to any other men's consciences but their own."* 

After demonstrating this position by a variety of scrip- 
tural arguments, he says, with reference to the apostles and 
a fortiori to ordinary ministers, " Having no dominion over the 
faithf or conscience of the flock whom they are to feed, hot 
by constraint, neither as being lords over God's heritage j" % 
and then adds, " But some will object, that this overthrows 
all church discipline, all censure of errors, if no man can 
determine. My answer is, that what they hear is plain 
scripture, which forbids not church sentence or determining, 
but as it ends in violence upon the conscience unconvinced. 
Let whoso will interpret or determine, so it be according to 
true church discipline, which is exercised on them only who 
have willingly joined themselves in that covenant of union, 
and proceeds only to a separation from the rest, proceeds 
never to any corporal enforcement or forfeiture of money, 
which in all spiritual things are the two arms of Antichrist, 
not of the true church ; the one being an inquisition, the 
other no better than a temporal indulgence of sin for money, 
whether by the church exacted or by the magistrate j both 
the one and the other a temporal satisfaction for what Christ 
hath satisfied eternally ; a popish commuting of penalty, cor- 
poral for spiritual; a satisfaction to man, especially to the 
magistrate, for what and to whom we owe none : these and 
more are the injustices of force and fining in religion, be- 

• Prose Works, yoL ii. p. 528. t 2 Cor. i 24. 

♦ lPet.v.2,3. 


sides what I most insist on, the violation of God's express 
commandment in the gospel, as hath heen shown. Thus 
then, if church governors cannot use force in religion, though 
hut for this reason, hecause they cannot infallibly determine 
to the conscience without convincement, much less have 
'civil magistrates authority to use force where they can much 
less judge ; unless they mean only to he the civil execution- 
ers of them who have no civil power to give them such com- 
mission, no, nor yet ecclesiastical, to any force or violence in 
religion. To sum up all in brief, if we must believe as the 
magistrate appoints, why not rather as the church? If not 
as either without convincement, how can force be lawful?"* 

His second argument is thus stated : — "From the riddance 
of these objections, I proceed yet to another reason why it is 
unlawful for the civil magistrate to use force in matters of 
religion ; which is, because to judge in those things, though 
we should grant him able, which is proved he is not, yet as 
a civil magistrate he hath no right. Christ hath a go- 
vernment of his own, sufficient of itself to all his ends and 
purposes in governing his church, but much different from 
that of the civil magistrate. And the difference in this very 
thing principally consists, that it governs not by outward 
force, and that for two reasons : first, because it deals only 
with the inward man and his actions, which are all. spi- 
ritual, and to outward force not liable ; secondly, to show 
us the divine excellence of his spiritual kingdom, able 
without worldly force to subdue all the powers and kingdoms 
of this world, which are upheld by outward force only."! 

This, again, he substantiates, as he proposed at the outset, 
by arguments drawn from Scripture only, and proceeds: "I 
have shown that the civil power hath neither right nor can 
do right by forcing religious things ; I will now show the 
wrong it doth, by violating the fundamental privilege of the 
gospel, the new birthright of every true believer — Christian 
liberty: 2 Cor. iii. 17, * Where the Spirit of the Lord is, 
* Prose Works, vol. ii. p. 526. t Ibid. p. 533. 


s liberty;' Gal. iv. 26, * Jerusalem, which is above, is 
rhich is the mother of us all ;' and ver. 31, ' We are 
ildren of the bondwoman, but of the free.' It will be 
jnt in this place to say no more of Christian liberty 
hat it sets us free,. not only from the bondage of those 
>nies, but also from the forcible imposition of those cir- 
inces, place, and time in the worship of God, which, 
l by him commanded in the old law, yet in respect of 
erity and freedom which is evangelical, St. Paul com- 
ids both kinds alike : that is to say, both ceremony 
rcumstance, under one and the same contemptuous 
of * weak and beggarly rudiments.' "* 

concluding argument is as follows : — 

fourth reason why the magistrate ought not to use 
n religion, I bring from the consideration of all those 
riiich he can likely pretend to the interposing of his 
therein ; and those hardly can be other than first the 
of God ; next, either the spiritual good of them whom 
ces, or the temporal punishment of their scandal to 
i. As for the promoting of God's glory, none, I think, 
ay that his glory ought to be promoted in religious 
$ by unwarrantable means, much less by means con- 
to what he hath commanded. That outward force is 
and that God's glory in the whole administration of 
>spel according to his own will and counsel ought to be 
3d by weakness, at least so refuted, not by force ; or 
force, inward and spiritual, not outward and corporeal, 
eady proved at large. That outward force cannot 
:o the good of him who is forced in religion, is un- 
onable. For, in religion, whatever we do under the 
1, we ought to be thereof persuaded without scruple ; 
re justified by the faith we have, not by the work we 
lom. xiv. 5, * Let every man be fully persuaded in his 

says, in conclusion : — 

* Prose Works, vol. ii. p. 539. + Ibid. p. 542. 


" On these four scriptural reasons, as on a firm square, 
this truth, the right of Christian and evangelic liberty, will 
stand immovable against all those pretended consequences 
of licence and confusion, which, for the most part, men 
most licentious and confused themselves, or such as whose 
severity would be wiser than divine wisdom, are ever aptest 
to object against the ways of God: as if God, without 
them, when he gave us this liberty, knew not of the worst 
which these men in their arrogance pretend will follow : 
yet knowing all their worst, he gave us this liberty as by 
him judged best. As to those magistrates who think it 
their work to settle religion, and those ministers or others 
who so oft call upon them to do so, I trust, that having well 
considered what hath been here argued, neither they will 
continue in that intention, nor these in that expectation 
from them ; when they shall find that the settlement of re- 
ligion belongs only to each particular church by persuasive 
and spiritual means within itself, and that the defence only 
of the church belongs to the magistrate. Had he once 
learned not further to concern himself with church aflairs, 
half his labour might be spared, and the commonwealth 
better tended."* 

The treatise of "Civil Power in Ecclesiastical Causes" was 
addressed to the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Eng- 
land, and contains one wise admonition, to which it would 
have been well if other parliaments besides that had borne 
in mind : — " Yet not for this cause only do I require or trust 
to find acceptance, but in a twofold respect besides : first, 
as bringing clear evidence of scripture and protestant 
maxims to the parliament of England, who in all their late 
acts, upon occasion, have professed to assert only the true 
protestant Christian religion, as it is contained in the Holy 
Scriptures : next, in regard that your power being but for 
a time, and having in yourselves a Christian liberty of your 
own, which at one time or other may be oppressed, thereof 
• Prose Works, vol. ii. pp. 646, 547. 


truly sensible, it will concern you while you are in power, 
so to regard other men's consciences, as you would your 
own should be regarded in the power of others ? and to con- 
sider that any law against conscience is alike in force 
against any conscience, and so may one way or other justly 
redound upon yourselves."* 

. Very shortly after the publication of this work appeared 
the companion treatise, entitled "Considerations touching 
the Likeliest Means to remove Hirelings out of the Church." 
This, like the former, was addressed to the Parliament, and 
its positions are entirely supported by scriptural argu- 

His general proposition is as follows : — 

" Hire of itself is neither a thing unlawful, nor a word of 
any evil note, signifying no more than a due recompense or 
reward ; as when our Saviour saith, * The labourer is wor- 
thy of his hire.' That which makes it so dangerous in the 
church, and properly makes the hireling a word always of 
evil signification, is either the excess thereof, or the undue 
manner of giving and taking it What harm the excess 
thereof brought to the church, perhaps was not found by 
experience till the days of Constantine ; who out of his zeal 
thinking he could be never too liberally a nursing father of 
the church, might be not unfitly said to have either overlaid 
it or choked it in the nursing. Which was foretold, as is 
recorded in ecclesiastical traditions, by a voice heard from 
heaven, on the very day that those great donations and 
church revenues were given, crying aloud, * This day is 
poison poured into the church.' Which the event soon 
after verified, as appears by another no less ancient observa- 
tion, * That religion brought forth wealth, and the daughter 
devoured the mother.' "t 

In pursuance of his main object, he proposes to consider, 
first, what recompense God hath ordained should be given 
to ministers of the church — for that a recompense ought to 
• Prose Works, toL ii. p. 621. t Ibid. toL iii. p. 5. 


be given them, and may by them justly he received, our 
Saviour himself, from the very light of reason and of equity 
hath declared, Luke x. 7 : "The labourer is worthy of his 
hire ; w next, by whom ; and, lastly, in what manner. The 
first of these divisions is designed to prove that the imposi- 
tion of tithes is inconsistent with the spirit and constitu- 
tion of the Christian religion. "What recompense," he 
says, " ought to be given to church ministers, God hath 
answerably ordained according to that difference which he 
hath manifestly put between those his two great dispensa- 
tions, the law and the gospel. Under the law, he gave 
them tithes ; under the gospel, having left all things in his 
church to charity and Christian freedom, he hath given 
them only what is justly given them. That, as well under 
the gospel as under the law, say our English divines, and 
they only of all protestants, is tithes $ and they say true, if 
any man be so minded as to give them of his own the tenth 
or twentieth; but that the law therefore of tithes is in force 
under the gospel, all other protestant divines, though equally 
concerned, yet constantly deny. For although hire to the 
labourer be of moral and perpetual right, yet that special 
kind of hire, the tenth, can be of no right or necessity, but 
to that special labour for which God ordained it That 
special labour was the Levitical and ceremonial service of 
the tabernacle, Numb, xviii. 21, 31, which is now abolished: 
the right, therefore, of that special hire must needs be 
withal abolished, as being also ceremonial. That tithes 
were ceremonial, is plain, not being given to the Levites till 
they had been first offered a heave-offering to the Lord, ver. 
24, 28. He, then, who by that law brings tithes into the 
gospel, of necessity brings in withal a sacrifice and an 
altar ; without which tithes by that law were unsanctified 
and polluted, ver. 42, and therefore never thought on in the 
first Christian times, till ceremonies, altars, and oblations, 
by an ancienter corruption, were brought back long before. 
And yet the Jews, ever since their temple was destroyed, 


though they have rabbies and teachers of their law, yet pay 
no tithes, as having no Levites to whom, no temple where, 
to pay them, no altar whereon to hallow them ; which ar- 
gues that the Jews themselves never thought tithes moral, 
but ceremonial only. That Christians, therefore, should take 
them up when Jews have laid them down, must needs be 
very absurd and preposterous."* 

After supporting this position with great ability, and 
answering all the objections of his opponents, by appealing 
to the authority of Scripture, he proceeds to his second 
topic : — 

" The next thing to be considered in the maintenance of 
ministers, is by whom it should be given. Wherein though 
the light of reason might sufficiently inform us, it will be 
best to consult the Scripture. Gal. vi. 6, 'Let him that is 
taught in the word, communicate to him that teacheth, in 
all good things :' that is to say, in all manner of gratitude, 
to his ability. 1 Cor. ix. 11, 'Ifwe have sown unto you 
spiritual things, is it a great matter if we reap your carnal 
things?' To whom therefore hath not been sown, from 
him wherefore should be reaped? 1 Tim. v. 17, * Let the 
elders that rule well, be counted worthy of double honour ; 
especially they who labour in word and doctrine/ By 
these places, we see that recompense was given either by 
every one in particular who had been instructed, or by 
them all in common, brought into the church-treasury, and 
distributed to the ministers according to their several la- 
bours : and that was judged either by some extraordinary 
person, as Timothy, who by the apostle was then left evan- 
gelist at Ephesus, 2 Tim. iv. 5, or by some to whom the 
church deputed that care. This is so agreeable to reason, 
and so clear, that any one may perceive what iniquity and 
violence hath prevailed since in the church, whereby it 
hath been so ordered, that they also shall be compelled to 
recompense the parochial minister, who neither chose him 
* Prose Works, vol. iii. pp. 6, 7. 


for their teacher, nor have received instruction from him, as 
being either insufficient, or not resident, or inferior to 
whom they follow ; wherein to bar them their choice, is to 
violate Christian liberty ."* 

Under this head, he cites extensively the testimony of 
Scripture, and the practice of the apostolic and reformed 
churches, and concludes as follows : — 

"Forced consecrations out of another man's estate are 
no better than forced vows, hateful to God, ' who loves a 
cheerful giver ;' but much more hateful, wrung out of men's 
purses to maintain a disapproved ministry against their con- 
science ; however unholy, infamous, and dishonourable to 
his ministers and the free gospel, maintained in such un- 
worthy manner as by violence and extortion. If he give it 
as to his teacher, what justice or equity compels him to pay 
for learning that religion which leaves freely to his choice 
whether he will learn it or no, whether of this teacher or 
another, and especially to pay for what he never learned, or 
approves not; whereby, besides the wound of his con- 
science, he becomes the less able to recompense his true 
teacher? Thus far hath been inquired by whom church- 
ministers ought to be maintained, and hath been proved 
most natural, most equal and agreeable with Scripture, to be 
by them who receive their teaching ; and by whom, if they 
be unable. Which ways well observed, can discourage 
none but hirelings, and will much lessen the number in the 

The last topic of consideration is in what manner God 
has ordained that recompense be given to ministers of the 
Gospel ; " and," says Milton, " by all scripture it will appear 
that he hath given it them not by civil law and freehold, as 
they claim, but by the benevolence and free gratitude of 
such as receive them.'' In proof of this, he heaps scripture 
upon scripture, and answers with great severity the objec- 
tion, that the oppressive charges of the church are necessary 

• Prose Works, vol. iii. pp. 22, 23. t Ibid, vol iii. p. 80. 


to sustain a learned ministry by means of an expensive 
university education. 

The treatise concludes with the following bold and ner- 
vous passage : — 

" Heretofore, in the first evangelical times, (and it were 
happy for Christendom if it were so again,) ministers of 
the gospel were by nothing else distinguished from other 
Christians, but by their spiritual knowledge and sanctity of 
life, for which the church elected them to be her teachers and 
overseers, though not thereby to separate them from whatr 
ever calling she then found them following besides; as the ex- 
ample of St Paul declares, and the first times of Christianity. 
When once they affected to be called a clergy, and became, 
as it were, a peculiar tribe of Levites, a party, a distinct 
order in the commonwealth, bred up for divines in babbling 
schools, and fed at the public cost, good for nothing else but 
what was good for nothing, they soon grow idle: that 
idleness, with fulness of bread, begat pride and perpetual 
contention with their feeders, the despised laity, through all 
ages ever since ; to the perverting of religion, and the dis- 
turbance of all Christendom. And we may confidently 
conclude, it never will be otherwise while they are thus 
upheld undepending on the church, on which alone they an- 
ciently depended, and are by the magistrate publicly main- 
tained, a numerous faction of indigent persons, crept for the 
most part out of extreme want and bad nurture, claiming by 
divine right and freehold the tenth of our estates, to mono- 
polize the ministry as their peculiar, which is free and open 
to all able Christians, elected by any church. Under this 
pretence, exempt from all other employment, and enriching 
themselves on the public, they last of all prove common 
incendiaries, and exalt their horns against the magistrate 
himself that maintains them, as the priest of Home did soon 
after against his benefactor the emperor, and the presbyters 
of late in Scotland. Of which hireling crew, together with 
all the mischiefs, dissensions, troubles, wars merely of their 


kindling, Christendom might soon rid herself and be happy 
if Christians would but know their own dignity, their 
liberty, their adoption, and let it not be wondered if I say, 
their spiritual priesthood, whereby they have all equally 
access to any ministerial function, whenever called by their 
own abilities, and the church, though they never came near 
commencement or university. But while protestants, to 
avoid the due labour of understanding their own religion, 
are content to lodge it in the breast, or rather in the books 
of a clergyman, and to take it thence by scraps and mam- 
mocks, as he dispenses it in his Sundays' dole, they will be 
always learning and never knowing ; always infants : al- 
ways either his vassals, as lay papists are to their priests; 
or at odds with him, as reformed principles give them some 
right to be not wholly comformable j whence infinite dis- 
turbances in the state, as they do, must needs follow. 
Thus much I had to say ; and, I suppose, what may be 
enough to them who are not avariciously bent otherwise, 
touching the likeliest means to remove hirelings out of the 
Church ; than which nothing can more conduce to truth, 
to peace, and all happiness, both in church and state. If I 
be not heard nor believed, the event will bear me witness 
to have spoken truth; and I in the meanwhile have 
borne my witness, not out of season, to the church and to 
my country , v * 

* Prose Works, vol. ill. pp. 40, 41 . 



All history instructs us, and political philosophy is at no 
loss to account for the fact, that revolutions commenced in 
deliberation, and carried out by the pacific force of public 
opinion, subside after temporary turmoil, and precipitate 
their elements, which crystallize into the regular forms of 
constitutional government : while those which are engen- 
dered and conducted by the brute force of arms, issue appro- 
priately in a military despotism. This is either rendered 
temporary, by the energies of civilization and public virtue, 
or, failing those only resources, all that is pure and pre- 
cious in human society perishes for an extended period, 
under its inorganic and torpifying pressure. The latter 
was the sad alternative which was witnessed in England in 
the year 1660. The army had virtually dissolved one par- 
liament, and re-constituted another, and this also owed its 
extinction to the same unconstitutional influence. The very 
theory of a standing army is embarrassed with a dilemma, 
which is not the less deserving of attention because it is 
not glaringly obvious. If ill disciplined, it is ineffica- 
cious for any purposes save those of feverish irritation, and 
plethoric expenditure; if highly disciplined, it is the 
mechanical engine of a few minds who may constitute it a 
despotic imperium in imperio. 


Towards the close of the year 1659, Milton saw those 
gathering clouds which were destined for a time to eclipse, 
and for a much longer period to obscure, the pure light of 
constitutional freedom ; and in the near prospect of the re- 
establishment of the Stuart dynasty, and, consequently, of 
the principles of Divine right and passive obedience, both 
civil and spiritual, and that with an activity intensified by 
temporary suppression, he published three tracts on the 
political position of his country, though evidently with the 
fullest recognition of the personal peril which such a mea- 
sure must involve. The first of these is entitled, " A Letter 
to a Friend, concerning the Ruptures of the Commonwealth." 
The second and third were addressed to General Monk, and 
entitled, " The Present Means and Brief Delineation of a 
Free Commonwealth," and " The Ready and Easy Way to 
Establish a Free Commonwealth." These are so similar in 
design and spirit, that they may be treated here as a single 
and continuous treatise. 

After lamenting the fickleness of the army, he thus pro- 
ceeds to appeal to them, and to state the principles on 
which alone the liberties of the country could be main- 
tained : — 

" How grievous will it then be ! how infamous to the 
true religion which we profess! how dishonourable to 
the name of God, that his fear and the power of his know- 
ledge in an army professing to be his, should not work that 
obedience, that fidelity to their supreme magistrates, that 
levied them and paid them ; when the light of nature, the 
laws of human society, covenants and contracts, yea com- 
mon shame, works in other armies, amongst the worst of 
them ! Which will undoubtedly pull down the heavy judg- 
ments of God among us, who cannot but avenge these 
hypocrisies, violations of truth and holiness ; if they be in- 
deed so as they yet seem. For neither do I speak this in 
reproach to the army, but as jealous of their honour, inciting 
them to manifest and publish with all speed, some better 


cause of these their late actions, than hath hitherto appeared, 
and to find out the Achan amongst them, whose close am- 
bition in all likelihood abuses their honest natures against 
their meaning to these disorders ; their readiest way to bring 
in again the common enemy, and with him the destruction 
of true religion, and civil liberty. 

" But, because our evils are now grown more dangerous 
and extreme, than to be remedied by complaints, it concerns 
ns now to find out what remedies may be likeliest to save us 
from approaching ruin. Being now in anarchy, without a 
counselling and governing power ; and the army, I suppose, 
finding themselves insufficient to discharge at once both 
military and civil affairs, the first thing to be found out with 
all speed, without which no commonwealth can subsist, 
must be a senate, or general council of state, in whom must 
be the power, first to preserve the public peace ; next, the 
commerce with foreign nations ; and lastly, to raise monies 
for the management of these affairs : this must either be the 
parliament re-admitted to sit, or a council of state allowed 
of by the army, since they only now have the power. The 
terms to be stood on are, liberty of conscience to all profess- 
ing Scripture to be the rule of their faith and worship: 
and the abjuration of a single person."* 

Milton next details his views of the best means of con- 
stituting a parliament and council of state, so as to super- 
sede the institutions of monarchy and the House of Lords, 
and thus appeals again to the self-respect of his country- 
men : — 

"After our liberty and religion thus prosperously 
fought for, gained, and many years possessed, except in 
those unhappy interruptions, which God hath removed; 
now that nothing remains, but in all reason the certain 
hopes of a speedy and immediate settlement for ever in a 
firm and free commonwealth, for this extolled and magnified 
nation, regardless both of honour won, or deliverances 
* Prose Works, toL iii. p. 400. 


vouchsafed from heaven, to fall hack, or rather to creep back 
so poorly, as it seems the multitude would, to their once 
abjured and detested thraldom of kingship, to be ourselves 
the slanderers of our own just and religious deeds, though 
done by some to covetous and ambitious ends, yet not there- 
fore to be stained with their infamy, or they to asperse the 
integrity of others ; and yet these now by revolting from 
the conscience of deeds well done, both in church and state, 
to throw away and forsake, or rather to betray a just and 
noble cause for the mixture of bad men who have ill- 
managed and abused it, (which had our fathers done here- 
tofore, and on the same pretence deserted true religion, 
what had long ere this become of our gospel, and all Protest- 
ant Reformation, so much intermixed with the avarice and 
ambition of some reformers?) and by thus relapsing, to 
verify all the bitter predictions of our triumphing enemies, 
who will now think they wisely discerned and justly cen- 
sured both us and all our actions as rash, rebellious, hypo- 
critical, and impious ; not only argues a strange, degenerate 
contagion suddenly spread among us, fitted and prepared 
for new slavery, but will render us a scorn and derision to 
all our neighbours. 

" And what will they at best say of us, and of the whole 
English name, but scohingly, as of that foolish builder 
mentioned by our Saviour, who began to build a tower, and 
was not able to finish it ? Where is this goodly tower of 
a commonwealth, which the English boasted they would 
build to overshadow kings, and be another Rome in the 
west ? The foundation indeed they lay gallantly, but fell 
into a worse confusion, not of tongues, but of factions, than 
those at the tower of Babel j and have left no memorial of 
their work behind them remaining but in the common 
laughter of Europe." * 

Dr. Johnson remarks, with that inaccuracy which marki 
almost every general observation on which he venture* 
* Prose Work*, voL ii. pp. 113, 114. 


respecting Milton's character, that in opposing monarchy he 
looked chiefly, if not solely, at its expensiveness. But in 
warning his country in this treatise against a return to that 
form of government, he shows that economical reasons were 
the weakest by which he was influenced. " God," he says, 
"in much displeasure gave a king to the Israelites, and 
imputed it a sin to them that they sought one ; but Christ 
apparently forbids his disciples to admit of any such hea- 
thenish government : * The kings of the Gentiles,' saith he, 
' exercise lordship over them,' and they that ' exercise autho- 
rity upon them are called benefactors : but ye shall not be 
so ; but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the 
younger ; and he that is chief, as he that serveth. , The 
occasion of these his words was the ambitious desire of Ze- 
bedee's two sons to be exalted above their brethren in his 
kingdom, which they thought was to be ere long upon earth. 
That he speaks of civil government, is manifest by the 
former part of the comparison, which infers the other part 
to be always in the same kind. And what government 
comes nearer to this precept of Christ, than a free common- 
wealth ; wherein they who are the greatest, are perpetual 
servants and drudges to the public at their own cost and 
charges, neglect their own affairs, yet are not elevated above 
their brethren ; live soberly in their families, walk the street 
as other men, may be spoken to freely, familiarly, friendly, 
without adoration P Whereas a king must be adored like a 
demigod, with a dissolute and haughty court about him, of 
vast expense and luxury, masks and revels, to the debauch- 
ing of our prime gentry, both male and female ; not in their 
pastimes only, but in earnest, by the loose employments 
of court-service, which will be then thought honourable. 
.... Certainly, then, that people must needs be mad or 
strangely infatuated, that build the chief hope of their com- 
mon happiness or safety on a single person ; who, if he hap- 
pen to be good, can do no more than another man ; if to be 
bad, hath in his hands to do more evil without check, than 


millions of other men. The happiness of a nation must 
needs be firmest and certainest in full and free council of 
their own electing, where no single person, but reason only, 
sways. And what madness is it for them who might manage 
nobly their own affairs themselves, sluggishly and weakly 
to devolve all on a single person ; and, more like boys under 
age than men, to commit all to his patronage and disposal 
who neither can perform what he undertakes ; and yet for 
undertaking it, though royally paid, will not be their servant, 
but their lord ! How unmanly must it needs be, to count 
such a one the breath of our nostrils, to hang all our felicity 
on him, all our safety, our well-being, for which if we were 
aught else but sluggards or babies, we need depend on none but 
God and our own counsels, our own active virtue and industry. 
.... It may be well wondered that any nation, styling them- 
selves free, can suffer any man to pretend hereditary right 
over them as their lord ; whenas, by acknowledging that 
right, they conclude themselves his servants and his vassals, 
and so renounce their own freedom. "Which how a people 
and their leaders especially can do, who have fought so glo- 
riously for liberty ; how they can change their noble words 
and actions, heretofore so becoming the majesty of a free 
people, into the base necessity of court flatteries and prostra- 
tions, is not only strange and admirable, but lamentable to 
think on. That a nation should be so valorous and cou- 
rageous to win their liberty in the field, and when theyhaTe 
won it, should be so heartless and unwise in their counsels, 
as not to know how to use it, value it, what to do with it, or 
with themselves ; but after ten or twelve years' prosperous 
war and contestation with tyranny, basely and besottedlyto 
run their necks again into the yoke which they have broken, 
and prostrate all the fruits of their victory for nought at the 
feet of the vanquished, besides our loss of glory, and such 
an example as kings or tyrants never yet had the like to 
boast of, will be an ignominy if it befall us, that never yet 
befell any nation possessed of their liberty." • 

* Prose Works, vol. \i.^A\fc,\\VV\VV\V 


He does not, however, confine himself to general illustra- 
tions of. the blessings of a commonwealth, but points out 
the special perils involved in the return of the deposed 
family. " But admit," he says, " that monarchy of itself 
may be convenient to some nations ; yet to us who have 
thrown it out, received back again, it cannot but prove per- 
nicious. For kings to come, never forgetting their former 
ejection, will be sure to fortify and arm themselves suffi- 
ciently for the future against all such attempts hereafter 
from the people ; who shall be then so narrowly watched 
and kept so low, that though they would never so fain, and 
at the same rate of their blood and treasure, they never shall 
be able to regain what they now have purchased and may 
enjoy, or to free themselves from any yoke imposed upon 
them. Nor will they dare to go about it; utterly dis- 
heartened for the future, if these their highest attempts prove 
unsuccessful ; which will be the triumph of all tyrants here- 
after over any people that shall resist oppression ; and their 
song will then be, to others, How sped the rebellious Eng- 
lish? to our posterity, How sped the rebels, your fathers?" * 

Having shown that that was the particular crisis, at which 
it would be easy to found a free commonwealth, he proceeds 
to show how especially such a form of government would 
conduce to those interests which he had through life re- 
garded as supremely valuable. " This liberty of conscience," 
he says, " which, above all other things, ought to be to all 
men dearest and most precious, no government more inclin- 
able not to favour alone, but to protect, than a free common- 
wealth; as being most magnanimous, most fearless, and 
confident of its own fair proceedings." This position he 
strengthens by showing how these rights were violated by 
Protestant Elizabeth, and then appeals : " What liberty of 
conscience can we then expect of others, far worse principled 
from the cradle, trained up and governed by popish and 
Spanish counsels, and on such depending hitherto for sub- 
sistence ? Especially what can this last parliament ex>\£,<&> 
* Prose Works, vol. ii. p. \3fo. 


who having revived lately and published the covenant, 
have re-engaged themselves never to readmit episcopacy? 
Which no son of Charles returning but will most certainly 
bring back with him, if he regard the last and strictest 
charge of his father, 'to persevere in, not the doctrine only 
but government of the Church of England, not to neglect 
the speedy and effectual suppressing of errors and schisms;' 
among which he accounted presbytery one of the chiefl ,, * 

He lastly proceeds to show that the same considerations 
applied to the civil rights and liberties of his countrymen, 
and concludes with the following prophetic language: "I 
have no more to say at present : few words will save us, 
well considered ; few and easy things now seasonably done. 
But if the people be so affected as to prostitute religion and 
liberty to the vain and groundless apprehension, that 
nothing but kingship can restore trade, not remembering 
the frequent plagues and pestilences that then wasted this 
city, such as through God's mercy we never have felt since; 
and that trade flourishes nowhere more than in the free 
commonwealths of Italy, Germany, and the Low Countries, 
before their eyes at this day ; yet if trade be grown so 
craving and importunate through the profuse living of 
tradesmen, that nothing can support it but the luxurious 
expenses of a nation upon trifles or superfluities ; so as if 
the people generally should betake themselves to frugality, 
it might prove a dangerous matter, lest tradesmen should 
mutiny for want of trading ; and that therefore we must 
forego and set to sale religion, liberty, honour, safety, all 
concernments divine or human, to keep up trading; it 
lastly, after all this light among us, the same reason shall 
pass for current, to put our necks again under kingship, as 
was made use of by the Jews to return back to Egypt, and 
to the worship of their idol queen, because they falsely 
imagined that they then lived in more plenty and pros- 
perity ; our condition is not sound, but rotten, both in 
* Prose Works, vol. ii. p. 134. 


religion and all civil prudence j and will bring us soon, the 
■way we are marching, to those calamities, which attend 
always and unavoidably on luxury, all national judgments 
under foreign and domestic slavery: so far we shall be from 
mending our condition by monarchizing our government, 
whatever new conceit now possesses us. 

"However, with all hazard I have ventured what I 
thought my duty to speak in season, and to forewarn my 
country in time ; wherein I doubt not but there be many 
wise men in all places and degrees, but am sorry the effects 
of wisdom are so little seen among us. Many circumstances 
and particulars I could have added in those things whereof 
I have spoken : but a few main matters now put speedily 
in execution, will suffice to recover us, and set all right : 
and there will want at no time who are good at circum- 
stances ; but men who set their minds on main matters, and 
sufficiently urge them, in these most difficult times I find 
not many. 

" What I have spoken, is the language of that which is 
not called amiss « The good old Cause : ' if it seem strange 
to any, it will not seem more strange, I hope, than convincing 
to backsliders. Thus much I should perhaps have said, 
though I was sure I should have spoken only to trees and 
stones ; and had none to cry to, but with the prophet, ' O 
earth, earth, earth! ' to tell the very soil itself, what her 
perverse inhabitants are deaf to. Nay, though what I have 
spoke should happen (which Thou suffer not, who didst 
create mankind free ! nor Thou next, who didst redeem us 
from being servants of men !) to be the last words of our 
expiring liberty."* 

And the last words of expiring liberty they were ; for 
they terminated the political history of her noblest cham- 
pion, and an enemy who had never felt the charm of her 
benign sway was already at the gates. His return was 
hailed by a people who judged themselves unworthy of 
Prose Works, vol, ii. pp. 13T, 138. 


freedom, by an acquiescent army, and by the treacherous fta- 
tion of loyalized presbyterians, more ignoble than all. Under 
such auspices, the most worthless of British winTmrrtw toi 
restored to the throne. " Then came those days never to be 
recalled without a blush — the days of servitude without loy- 
alty, and sensuality without love, of dwarfish talents and 
gigantic vices, the paradise of cold hearts and narrow minds, 
the golden age of the coward, the bigot, and the slave. The 
King cringed to his rival that he might trample on his 
people, sunk into a Viceroy of France, and pocketed, with 
complacent infamy, her degrading insults, and her more 
degrading gold. The caresses of harlots, and the jests of 
buffoons, regulated the measures of a government which had 
just ability -enough to deceive, and just religion enough to 
persecute. The principles of liberty were the scoff of every 
grinning courtier, and the Anathema Maranatha of every 
fawning dean. In every high place, worship was paid to 
Charles and James — Belial and Moloch ; and England pro- 
pitiated those obscene and cruel idols with the blood of her 
best and bravest children. Crime succeeded to crime, and 
disgrace to disgrace, till the race accursed of God and man 
was a second time time driven forth, to wander on the face 
of the earth, and to be a by-word and a shaking of the 
head to the nations." * 

The Foreign Secretary who had stood forth before the 
eyes of Europe as the justifier of the execution of Charles L, 
and as the opponent of that prelatical tyranny which the 
Stuarts cherished as the bulwark of their own, was too 
conspicuous an offender not to be endangered by the Resto- 
ration. Accordingly, he quitted his residence in Petty 
France, and was secreted in the house of a friend in St 
Bartholomew's Close, where he remained for about four 
months, until his safety was permanently secured by the 
passing of the Act of Oblivion, on the 29th August, 1660. 
His two great political works, the " Eikonoclastes " and the 
* Edinburgh Review, toL xlii., p. 837. 


efencc of the People of England," were condemned to 
)urnt by the hands of the common hangman ; but at 
i insult Milton could well afford a contemptuous smile, 
a through the " natural tears" which he shed over the 
ve of departed freedom. 


milton's changes of residence — his third marriage — his cok- 
nexion with ellwood — removal to chalfont — completes tbi 
"paradise lost" — early history of this poem — letter to 
heimbach — " paradise regained" — " samson agonistes. " 

As soon as Milton was delivered from the perils in which 
so many whom he honoured and loved were involved by 
the vindictive cruelty of Charles II., he established himself 
in a house in Holborn, not far from Red Lion Square. 
From this he removed, after an occupation of about two 
years, to a vicinity to which, for some reason, he seems to 
have been partial. He had in earlier years resided in 
Aldersgate Street, Barbican, and Bartholomew Close, and 
in 1662 we find him in Jewin Street. His last removal 
was to no great distance from this spot ; this to a small 
house in Artillery Walk, Bunhill Fields, where he spent 
the remainder of his days. 

One interval, however, requiring especial observation, 
occurred during the period embraced in these notices of his 
latest places of residence. During the time of his abode in 
Jewin Street, he felt that his solitary condition, aggravated 
by the cold inattention of his daughters, required the solace 
of conjugal life. He accordingly requested his friend Dr. 
Paget to recommend him a suitable partner, and, by his 
advice, he married, as his third wife, Elizabeth, daughter of 
Sir Edward Minshul, of Cheshire, a distant relation of Dr. 
Paget. Soon after this event Milton was offered the Foreign 


Secretaryship, under the Government of Charles II., which 
Ke had filled with so much distinction in the time of the 
Commonwealth. His wife, dazzled hy the prospect which 
this proposal opened hefore her, earnestly urged him to 
accede to it This Milton peremptorily refused, adding, 
" You, as other women, would ride in your coach : my aim 
is to live and die an honest man." 

The events of Milton's personal history for the few next 
years have been related without any material variation by 
all his biographers, and modern years have brought no 
accession of information respecting them. The statements 
of the best of these authors will therefore be collated in this 
place, with no other acknowledgment than a marginal 
reference. During his residence in Jewin Street, Ellwood 
the quaker was recommended to him as a person who, for 
the advantage of his conversation, would read to him such 
Latin books as he thought proper ; an employment to which 
he attended every afternoon, except on Sundays. " At my first 
sitting to him," this ingenious writer informs us in his Life 
of himself, " observing that I used the English pronuncia- 
tion, he told me, if I would have the benefit of the Latin 
tongue, not only to read and understand Latin authors, but 
to converse with foreigners, either abroad or at home, I 
must learn the foreign pronunciation ; to this I consenting, 
he instructed me how to sound the vowels : this change of 
pronunciation proved a new difficulty to me; but 'labor 
omnia mncit improbus ;' and so did I; which made my 
reading the more acceptable to my master. He, on the 
other hand, perceiving with what earnest desire I pursued 
learning, gave me not only all the encouragement, but all 
the help, he could; for, having a curious ear, he under- 
stood by my tone when I understood what I read, and 
when I did not ; and accordingly he would stop me, and 
examine me, and open the most difficult passages to me." 
The kind care bestowed by Milton upon the improvement 
of this young man, was repaid by every mark of personal 


regard. The courtesy of the preceptor, and the gratitude 
of the disciple, are indeed alike conspicuous. After several 
adventures, which were no slight trials of patience, Ellwood 
found an asylum in the house of an affluent quaker at 
Chalfont, in Buckinghamshire, whose children he was to 
instruct. This situation afforded him an opportunity of 
being serviceable to Milton : for, when the plague began 
to rage in London in 1665, Ellwood took a house for him at 
Chalfont, St. Giles; to which the poet retired with his 
family. He had not long before removed from Jewin Street 
to a house in Artillery Walk, leading to Bunhill Fields ; but 
he is also said, by Richardson, on the authority of a person 
who was acquainted with Milton, and who had often met 
him with his host conducting him, to have lodged awhile 
before this last removal, with Millington, the famous auc- 
tioneer of books ; a man whose occupation and whose ta- 
lents would render his company very acceptable to Mil- 
ton ; for he has been described by a contemporary pen as 
" a man of remarkable elocution, wit, sense, and modesty."* 

On his arrival at Chalfont, Milton found that Ellwood, 
in consequence of a persecution of the quakers, was confined 
in the gaol of Aylesbury. But, being soon released, this 
affectionate friend made a visit to him, to welcome him 
into the country. " After some common discourses,* says 
Ellwood, " had passed between us, he called for a manu- 
script of his, which, being brought, he delivered to me, 
bidding me take it home with me, and read it at my leisure, 
and when I had so done, return it to him with my judg- 
ment thereupon. When I came home, and set myself to 
read it, I found it was that excellent poem, which he 
entitled * Paradise Lost.' " 

" After I had with the best attention read it through," 

says the respectable Ellwood, " I made him another visit, 

and returned him his book, with due acknowledgment of 

the favour he had done me in communicating it to me. He 

• Todd's Life of Milton, pp. 186 and 190. 


ftaked me how I liked it, and what I thought of it : which 
I modestly and freely told him; and, after some further 
discourse, I pleasantly said to him, Thou hast said much 
here of Paradise lost, but what hast thou to say of Paradise 
found ? He made me no answer, but sat some time in a 
muse : then broke off that discourse, and fell upon another 
subject. After the sickness was over, and the city well 
cleansed, and become safely habitable again, he returned 
thither; and when afterwards I went to wait upon him, 
(which I seldom failed of doing when my occasions led me 
to London), he showed me his second poem, called * Para- 
dise Regained/ and in a pleasant tone said to me, ' This is 
owing to you, for you put it into my head by the question 
you put to me at Chalfont, which before I had not thought 

The term of Milton's residence at Chalfont has not been 
precisely specified; but from the circumstances to which 
it was accommodated, the prevalence and the extirpation of 
the plague in the capital, we may infer that it extended 
from the June or the July of 1 665 to the March or April of 
the following year. 

It is not exactly ascertained when the " Paradise Lost" 
was commenced ; but there is every reason to believe that 
it was completed during this brief sojourn at Chalfont. On 
the 26th of April, 1667,* he sold the manuscript of the 
"Paradise Lost" to Samuel Simmons, the bookseller, for 
the insignificant sum of £5. But the agreement with the 
bookseller entitled him to a conditional payment of five 
pounds more when thirteen hundred copies should be sold 
of the first edition ; of the like sum after the same number 
of the second edition ; and of another five pounds after the 
same sale of the third. The number of each edition was 
not to exceed fifteen hundred copies. It first appeared in 
1667, in ten books. The poem, in a small quarto form, and 
plainly but neatly bound, was advertised at the price of 
• Symmons' life of Milton, pp. 381, 362. 


three shillings* The titles were varied, in order to circulate 
the edition, in 1667, 1668, and 1669. Of these there woe 
no less than five. In two years the sale gave tfie poet a 
right to his second payment, for which the receipt was 
signed April 26, 1669. The second edition was not gran 
till 1674 ; it was printed in small octavo ; and, by a judicious 
division of the seventh and tenth, contained twelve books. 
He lived not to receive the payment stipulated for this im- 
pression. The third edition was published in 1678; and 
his widow, to whom the copy was then to devolve, agreed 
with Simmons, the printer, to receive eight pounds for her 
right, according to her receipt, dated December 21, 1680; 
and gave him a general release, dated April 29, 1681. 
Simmons covenanted to transfer the right, for twenty-fire 
pounds, to Brabazon Aylmer, a bookseller; and Aylmer 
sold to Jacob Tonson half of it, August 17, 1683, and the 
other half, March 24, 1690, at a price very considerably 

An anecdote has been related by Richardson, one of fen 
earlier biographers, " that Sir John Denham came into the 
House one morning with a sheet of ' Paradise Lost,' wet 
from ,the press, in his hand ; and, being asked what it was, 
he replied, * Part of the noblest poem that ever was written 
in any language or in any age. 9 However, the book re- 
mained unknown till it was produced about two years after- 
wards by Lord Buckhurst on the following occasion. That 
nobleman, in company with Mr. Fleetwood Shephard, (who 
frequently told the story to Dr. Tancred Robinson, an 
eminent physician, and Mr. Richardson's informer), looking 
over some books in Little Britain, met with * Paradise 
Lost;' and, being surprised with some passages in turning 
it over, bought it. The bookseller requested his lordship 
to speak in its favour, if he liked it : for the impression by 
on his hands as waste paper. Lord Buckhurst, (whom 
Richardson inaccurately calls the Earl of Dorset, for he did 
* Todd's Life of Milton, pp. 194, 193- 


not succeed to that title till some years afterwards), having 
read the poem, sent it to Dryden, who in a short time 
returned it with this answer : * This man cuts us all out, 
and the ancients too. * "* 

Although there is, doubtless, a foundation of truth in 
the former anecdote, the association of Sir John Denham's 
name with the fact is certainly erroneous, as that gentleman 
never was in Parliament. Shortly afterwards, however, 
Dryden called upon* the author, and obtained his permission 
to construct a drama, or rather an opera, upon the great 
epic. This did not appear during Milton's life ; but, in the 
preface, a due homage is paid to his genius. Although the 
poem passed through six editions within twenty years of its 
publication, it cannot be said to have obtained the atten- 
tion; it deserved, until it was popularized by the criticisms 
of Addison. 

It would be a waste of time to descant on the innumer- 
able merits of a poem which has been made the theme of 
almost every critic of eminence for upwards of a century, 
and which now enjoys an undisputed supremacy. That it 
should not have been popular in the days of the two last 
Stuarts, is not matter of surprise. The age of tyranny was 
not likely to favour the writings of the apostle of freedom. 
The age of sensuality was incapable of relishing the moral 
beauties and intellectual charms of Milton's muse. It was 
reserved to a brighter and a better age to render justice to 
the memory of the Patriot-Bard ; and, perhaps, it is safe to 
predict that the estimation of Milton's poetry will afford the 
measure of the literary refinement, and that of his prose 
writings will gauge the political elevation or decline, of 
every succeeding age in this country. 

Mr. Philips has mentioned one singular circumstance with 

respect to the composition of the "Paradise Lost,' 1 "which," 

he says, " I have a particular reason to remember ; for whereas 

1 had the perusal of it from the very beginning, for some years, 

• Todd's Life of Milton, pp. 204, 206. 


as I went from time to visit him, in parcels of ten, twenty, or 
thirty verses at a time (which, being written by whatever 
hand came next, might possibly want correction as to the 
orthography and pointing), having, as the summer came 
on, not been shown any for a considerable while, and 
desiring the reason thereof was answered, that his Teio 
never happily flowed but from the Autumnal Equinox to 
the Vernal ; and that whatever he attempted at other timee 
was never to his satisfaction, though he courted his fancy 
never so much ; so that, in all the years he was about this 
poem, he may be said to have spent half his time therein."* 

" Of his artifices of study, or particular hours of composi- 
tion," says Johnson, " we have little account." Richardson, 
however, relates "that he would sometimes lie awake 
whole nights, but not a verse could he make; and on a 
sudden his poetical faculty would rush upon him with aa 
impetus, or cestrum, and his daughter was immediately 
called to secure what came. In dictating in the day, he 
was accustomed to sit leaning back, in an easy chair, with 
his leg flung over the elbow of it, and at such times he 
would dictate perhaps forty lines in a breath, and then re- 
duce them to half the number. 

Newton, in his Life of the poet, states that "Mrs. Milton, 
who survived her husband, in a state of widowhood, nearly 
fifty-five years, related that he composed principally in the 
winter ; and on his waking in the morning would make her 
write down sometimes twenty or thirty verses. On being 
asked whether he did not frequently read Homer and 
Virgil, she replied that ' he stole from nobody but the mm 
who inspired him.' To a lady inquiring who the muse was. 
she answered, * it was God's grace, and the Holy Spirit that 
\idtedhim nightly.' 

During Milton's residence at Chalfont, a report obtained 
currency that he had perished by the plague ; which need 
occasion the less surprise as the parish registers show, that 
* Johnson's Lives of the Poets, vol. i. pp. 189, 190. 


that Tillage did not escape the ravages of this calamitous 
visitation. This report appears to have reached the Conti- 
nent, and elicited from several eminent men letters of in- 
quiry respecting the safety of so valuable a life. The last 
of the poet's familiar letters which we possess, is an answer 
to one of these. It is addressed, " To the most accom- 
plished Peter Heimbach, Counsellor of State to the Elector 
of Brandenburgh," and having been written in Latin, is 
presented by Mr. Todd in the following translation : — 

" That, in a year so pestilential and so fatal as the pre- 
sent, amidst the deaths of so many of my compatriots, you 
should have believed me likewise, as you write me word, in 
consequence too of some rumour or other, to have fallen a 
victim, excites in me no surprise : and if that rumour owed 
its currency among you, as it seems to have done, to an 
anxiety for my welfare, I feel flattered by it as an instance 
of your friendly regard. Through the goodness of God, 
however, who had provided me with a safe retreat in the 
country, I still live and am well ; and would that I could 
add, not incompetent to any duty which it may be my 
farther destiny to discharge. 

" But that after so long an interval I should have recurred 
to your remembrance, is highly gratifying to me ; though 
to judge from your eloquent embellishments of the matter, 
when you profess your admiration of so many different vir- 
tues united in my single person, you seem to furnish some 
ground for suspecting that I have, indeed, escaped from 
your recollection. From such a number of unions, in fact, 
I should have cause to dread a progeny too numerous, were 
it not admitted that in disgrace and adversity the virtues 
principally increase and flourish. One of them, however* 
has not made me any very grateful return for her enter- 
tainment; for she whom you call the political (though I 
would rather that you had termed her love of country), 
after seducing me with her fine name, has nearly, if I 
may so express myself, deprived me of a country. The rest, 


indeed, harmonise more perfectly together. Our country » 
wherever we can live as we ought. 

"Before I conclude, I must prevail on you to impute 
whatever incorrectness of orthography or of punctuation yea 
may discover in this epistle, to my young amanuensis; 
whose total ignorance of Latin has imposed on me the 
disagreeable necessity of actually dictating to him every 
individual letter. 

" That your deserts as a man, consistently with the high 
promise with which you raised my expectations in your 
youth, should have elevated you to so eminent a station in 
your sovereign's favour, gives me the most sincere pleasure ; 
and I fervently pray and trust that you may proceed and 
prosper. Farewell ! — London, August 15, 1666." 

In the year 1670, Milton published his fragment of the 
History of England, the earlier portion of which has been 
noticed already, and which his subsequent intervals of 
labour only brought down to the period at which the 
strictly national interest of our annals commences — that of 
the victory of William of Normandy at the Battle of Hast- 
ings. In the following year he published the "Paradise 
Regained," and the dramatic poem entitled "Samson 

Had Milton never written the "Paradise Lost," it is 
more than probable that the " Paradise Regained " would 
have been rewarded with the admiration of posterity, 
and secured for its author a high rank among epic 
poets. Some fond admirers of Milton have endeavoured 
to attract to it some portion of that voluntary tribute 
which is universally paid to its great predecessor. Jortin 
has eulogised it; Dunster has laboured to develop its 
previously unrecognized beauties; and Warbuiton has 
pronounced it a charming poem, nothing inferior in the 
poetry and the sentiments to the " Paradise Lost." But these 
panegyrics have never received that endorsement which, in 
the republic of letters, is the sole, and, indeed, the just, rati- 
fication of purely liteTary exceWeuce. ^^\\mk^ \i» truth 


bat the " Paradise Lost" satiates every faculty to which 
jpeals,* and renders the revival of the zest impossible, 
;pt by a power analogous to that which was exerted in 
miracle of Cana. Nevertheless, it contains passages of 
it beauty and grandeur ; and one which shows to what 
extent he retained, irrepressible amidst the decay of 
ire, the principles which had governed his more active 
deserves on that account to be inserted in this place, 
sentiment is put into the mouth of the Saviour : — 

" Extol not riches, then, the toil of fools, 
The wise man's cumbrance, if not snare ; more apt 
To slacken virtue, and abate her edge, 
Than prompt her to do aught may merit praise. 
What if with like aversion I reject 
Kiches and realms ? Yet not, for that a crown, 
Golden in show, is but a wreath of thorns, 
Brings dangers, troubles, cares, and sleepless nights, 
To him who wears the regal diadem, 
When on his shoulders each man's burden liea; 
For therein stands the office of a king, 
His honour, virtue, merit, and chief praise, 
That for the public all this weight he bears. 
Yet he who reigns within himself, and rules 
Passions, desires, and fears, is more a king, 
Which every wise and virtuous man attains ; 
And who attains not, ill aspires to rule 
Cities of men or headstrong multitudes, 
Subjects himself to anarchy within, 
Or lawless passions in him, which he serves. 
But to guide nations in the way of truth, 
By saving doctrine, and from error lead, 
To know, and, knowing, worship God aright, 
Is yet more kingly; this attracts the soul, 
Governs the inner man, the nobler part : 
That other o'er the body only reigns, 
And oft by force; which to a generous mind, 
So reigning, can be no sincere delight ; 
Besides, to give a kingdom hath been thought 
Greater and nobler done, and to lay down 
Far more magnanimous, than to assume." 

* Omne supervacunm pleno de pecloxe majia.V—B.tfs^Q*. 


Throughout the writings of Milton, we have seen his 
complete familiarity and intense sympathy with classical 
literature, producing two characteristic results: — the one, 
the infusion of beautiful, but exotic, and, in many cases, 
recondite illustration ; the other, the interpolation into his 
style of that which, in the view of mere nationality, must 
be regarded as a corrupt element. It has been remarked 
of the " Paradise Regained," that its style " is much less 
encumbered with allusions to abstruse learning, than the 
* Paradise Lost/ Different critics assign different reasons 
for this. It is probable that the poet was influenced by 
regard to the simple language of the New Testament : in 
previous parts of the Bible, there is much more of poetical 
ornament and figurative richness." 

The defect of the " Samson Agonistes " is not one of 
style, but of structure. It is framed on the model of 
the Greek drama, which, if not incompatible with our 
language, is certainly uncongenial with the national litera- 
ture and the popular taste. The great masters of the British 
drama, both prior and subsequent to the days of Milton, 
do not admit to the vicinity of their imperial throne the 
rivalry of classic antiquity. As the "Paradise Regained" 
admitted of the development of some of Milton's political 
and religious opinions, so among the more individual 
delineations of the " Samson," we find some passages in 
which it is impossible not to perceive a reference to the 
author's personal and domestic condition. Of this the 
following is an obvious example : — 

" I, dark in light, exposed 
To daily fraud, contempt, abuse, and wrong, 
Within doors or without, still as a fool, 
In power of others, never in my own ; 
Scarce half I seem to live, dead more than half. 
O dark, dark, dark, amid the blaze of noon 1 
Irrevocably dark, total eclipse, 
Without all hope of day!" 


Like every other work of Milton, the " Samson Agonis- 
tes" abounds with noble sentiments, and with passages of 
great poetic force and beauty ; but a character of tame in- 
efficacy attaches to eveiy dramatic composition which is not 
adapted to the stage. In this instance, too, the irregularity 
of the ode interferes with the measured and progressive 
movement of the tragic muse ; and, as a dramatic composi- 
tion, the just decision of the literary world has pronounced 
it a failure. 



In 1673, Milton, impressed with alarm at the rapid in- 
crease of Popery, and regarding its re-establishment in 
England as involving a retrogression from a pure and free 
religion, to superstition, infidelity, and spiritual despotism, 
put forth a tract entitled " Of True Religion, Heresy, Schism, 
Toleration, and what Best Means may be used against the 
growth of Popery." A few selections from this treatise will 
indicate the course of his argument : " True religion," he 
lays down at the outset, " is the true worship and service 
of God, learned and believed from the Word of God only. 
. . . With good and religious reason, therefore, all Pro- 
testant churches, with one consent, and particularly the 
Church of England, in her Thirty-nine Articles (Article 
6th, 19th, 20th, 21st, and elsewhere), maintain these two 
points, as the main principles of true religion — that the rule 
of true religion is the Word of God only ; and that their 
faith ought not to be an implicit faith, that is, to believe, 
though as the church believes, against or without express 
authority of Scripture. And if all Protestants, as universally 
as they hold these two principles, so attentively and reli- 
giously would observe them, they would avoid and cut off 


Xnany debates and contentions, schisms and persecutions, 
"Which too oft have been among them, and more firmly 
Unite against the common adversary. For hence it directly 
follows, that no true Protestant can persecute, or not 
tolerate, his fellow-Protestant, though dissenting from him 
in some opinions, but he must flatly deny and renounce these 
two his own main principles, whereon true religion is 
founded ; while he compels his brother from that which he 
believes as the manifest word of God, to an implicit faith 
(which he himself condemns), to the endangering of his 
brother's soul, whether by rash belief or outward con- 
formity : for * whatsoever is not of faith is sin/ 

«* I will now as briefly show what is false religion, or 
heresy, which will be done as easily ; for of contraries the 
definitions must needs be contrary. Heresy, therefore, is a 
religion taken up and believed from the traditions of men, 
and additions to the Word of God. . . . Schism is a 
rent or division in the church, when it comes to the sepa- 
rating of congregations; and may also happen to a true 
church, as well as to a false ; yet in the true needs not tend 
to the breaking of communion, if they can agree in the 
right administration of that wherein they communicate, 
keeping their other opinions to themselves, not being de- 
structive to faith. The Pharisees and Sadducees were two 
sects, yet both met together in their common worship of 
God at Jerusalem. But here the Papist will angrily de- 
mand, What ! are Lutherans, Calvinists, Anabaptists, So- 
cinians, Arminians, no heretics ? I answer, All these may 
have some errors, but are no heretics. Heresy is in the 
will and choice professedly against Scripture; error is 
against the will, in misunderstanding the Scripture after 
all sincere endeavours to understand it rightly : hence it 
was said well by one of the ancients, * Err I may, but heretic 
I will not be/ It is a human frailty to err, and no man is 
infallible here on earth. But so long as all these profess to 
set the Word of God only before them as the rule of faith 


and obedience ; and use all diligence and sincerity of heart, 
by reading, by learning, by study, by prayer for illumina- 
tion of the Holy Spirit, to understand the rule and obey it, 
they have done what man can do: God will assuredly 
pardon them, as he did the friends of Job ; good and pious 
men, though much mistaken, as there it appears, in some 
points of doctrine."* 

Referring next to the intolerance of the Papists, he 
says : — 

" But he is wont to say, }ie enjoins only things indhTerent 
Let them be so still ; who gave him authority to change 
their nature by enjoining them ? If by his own principles, 
as is proved, he ought to tolerate controverted points of 
doctrine not slightly grounded on Scripture, much more 
ought he not impose things indifferent without Scripture. 
In religion nothing is indifferent ; but if it come once to be 
imposed, is either a command or a prohibition, and so con- 
sequently an addition to the Word of God, which he pro- 
fesses to disallow. Besides, how unequal, how uncharitable 
must it needs be, to impose that which his conscience can- 
not urge him to impose, upon him whose conscience forbids 
him to obey ! What can it be but love of contention for 
things not necessary to be done, to molest the conscience of 
his brother, who holds them necessary to be not done? M f 

Milton next comes to the question whether Popery should 
or should not be tolerated by a Christian government, and 
in this sole instance appears to have been swayed, at this 
period of his life, rather by an absorbing love of the truth, 
than by confidence in its self-sustaining power. He cer- 
tainly condemns and deprecates the infliction of pains and 
penalties on Roman Catholics for what can properly he 
called the exercise of their religion ; but he considers that 
their political tenets place them without the boundary of 
toleration, and that their idolatrous use of images, &c, 
should be repressed as a public offence against Almighty N 
* Prose Works, vol. it pp. 610, 511. t Ibid. p. 513. 


God, and as held by themselves as "not necessary to salva- 
tion, but only enjoined them by tradition." 

" The next means," he says, " to hinder the growth of 
Popery will be, to read duly and diligently the Holy Scrip- 
tures, which, as St. Paul saith to Timothy, who had known 
them from a child, ' are able to make wise unto salvation.' 
And to the whole church of Colossi: ' Let the word of Christ 
dwell in you plentifully, with all wisdom/ Col. iii. 16. The 
Papal Antichristian church permits not her laity to read 
the Bible in their own tongue : our church, on the contrary, 
hath proposed it to all men, and to this end translated it 
into English, with profitable notes on what is met with 
obscure, though what is most necessary to be known be still 
plainest ; that all sorts and degrees of men, not understand- 
ing the original, may read it in their mother tongue. 
Neither let the countryman, the tradesman, the lawyer, the 
physician, the statesman, excuse himself by his much busi- 
ness from the studious reading thereof." * 

The treatise concludes with a powerful enforcement of 
the position, that " The last means to avoid Popery is, to 
amend our lives. It is a general complaint, that this nation, 
of late years, is grown more numerously and excessively 
vicious than heretofore; pride, luxury, drunkenness, whore- 
dom, cursing, swearing, bold and open atheism, everywhere 
abounding : where these grow, no wonder if Popery also 
grow apace. There is no man so wicked but sometimes his 
conscience will wring him with thoughts of another world, 
and the peril of his soul ; the trouble and melancholy, which 
he conceives of true repentance and amendment, he endures 
not, but inclines rather to some carnal superstition, which 
may pacify and lull his conscience with some more pleasing 
doctrine. None more ready and officious to offer herself 
than the Romish, and opens wide her office, with all her 
faculties, to receive him ; easy confession, easy absolution, 
pardons, indulgences, masses for him both quick and dead, 
* Prose Worlre, toL ii. p. 516. 



Agnus Deis, relics, and the like : and lie, instead of * work- 
ing out his salvation with fear and trembling,' straight 
thinks in his heart (like another kind of fool than he in 
the Psalms,) to bribe God as a corrupt judge ; and by his 
proctor, some priest, or Mar, to buy out his peace with 
money, which he cannot with his repentance. ... Let 
us, therefore, using this last means, last here spoken of, 
but first to be done, amend our lives with all speed ; lest 
through impenitency we run into that stupidity which 
we now seek all means so warily to avoid, the worst of 
superstitions, and the heaviest of all God's judgments- 

In concluding these notices of Milton's writings, it is 
necessary to gather up one or two minor publications. 
About the time of his last marriage, he published a short 
treatise, entitled " Accidence commenced Grammar," which is 
no otherwise remarkable than as exhibiting a mighty mind 
condescending to the humblest spheres of useful exertion. 

In the same year he published a manuscript of Sir 
Walter Raleigh, with the title of "Aphorisms of State." 

In 1672 we find him again devoting his pen to the inter- 
ests of education, in a treatise inscribed, " Artis Logic® 
plenior institutio ad Petri Rami methodum concinnata," 
That is, a scheme of logic digested on the plan of Ramus 
(a Frenchman, whose vernacular name was De la Ramee). 
In addition to these works, two were published posthu- 
mously. The first of these was given to the world about 
eight years after the death of Milton, and is entitled, "The 
Brief History of Moscovia, and of other less-known 
Countries lying eastward of Russia, as far as Cathay." 
The second requires a more particular notice. 

In the year 1823, Mr. Lemon, the Deputy-Keeper of 

State Papers, discovered, in his researches in the old State 

Paper Office at Whitehall, a packet wrapped in what 

proved to be proof-sheets of the "Elzevir Horace;" this 

* Prose Works, voL ii. pp. 518, 519. 


was inclosed in a cover directed to Mr. Skinner, merchant, 
the same Cyriac Skinner to whom Milton addressed his 
sonnet on his blindness. The packet was fonnd to contain 
the State Letters of Milton, and a manuscript entitled, 
" Idea Theologiae,"' of Milton's authorship, of which there 
exists abundant evidence, both external and internal. It 
constitutes a complete body of divinity, consisting of two 
books: the first "On the Knowledge of God," and the 
second "On the Service of God:" the former divided into 
thirty-three, and the latter into seventeen, chapters. The 
translation and editing of this manuscript was confided 
by George IV. to Mr. Sumner, afterwards Bishop of Win- 
chester, by whom it was published in 1825. A few sen- 
tences from the most important chapters must suffice 
to indicate the theological views of Milton at the closing 
period of his life. 

On the Divine Nature he says : — " Our safest way is to 
form in our minds such a conception of God as shall cor- 
respond with his own delineation and representation of 
himself in the sacred writings. For it is on this very 
account that he has lowered himself to our level, lest in 
our flights above the reach of human understanding, and 
beyond the written word of Scripture, we should be 
tempted to indulge in vague cogitations and subtleties." 

In the chapter, " On the Divine Decrees," he says, " It 
is to be understood that God decreed nothing absolutely, 
which he left in the power of free agents: a doctrine 
which is shown by the whole canon of Scripture. . . . 
God had determined from all eternity, that man should so 
far be a free agent, that it remained with himself to decide 
whether he would stand or fall. . . . God of his wis- 
dom determined to create men and angels reasonable beings 
and therefore free agents." 

And in the chapter on Predestination : " Without 
searching deeper into this subject, let us be contented with 
only knowing, that God, out of his infinite mercy and grace 


in Christ, has predestinated to salvation all who should 

On the Nature and Work of Christ, he says: "This 
point appears certain, notwithstanding the arguments of 
some of the moderns to the contrary, that the Son existed 
in the beginning, under the name of the logos or word, and 
was the first of the whole creation, by whom afterwards all 
other things were made both in heaven and earth." And 
again: "The mediatorial office of Christ is that whereby, 
at the special appointment of God the Father, he volun- 
tarily performed, and continues to perform, on behalf of 
man, whatever is requisite for obtaining reconciliation 
with God, and eternal salvation. . . . The exaltation of 
Christ is that by which, having triumphed over death, and 
laid aside the form of a servant, he was exalted by God the 
Father to a state of immortality and of the highest glory, 
partly by his own merits, partly by the gift of the Father, 
for the benefit of mankind; wherefore he rose again from 
the dead, ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right 
hand of God." Again : "As Christ emptied himself in both 
his natures, so both participate in his exaltation ; his God- 
head, by its restoration and manifestation ; his manhood, 
by an accession of glory." And again : " The satisfaction 
of Christ is the complete reparation made by him, in his 
twofold capacity of God and Man, by the fulfilment of the 
law and payment of the required price for all mankind/' 

Dr. Johnson, whose injustice to the memory of Milton 
has been so frequently noticed, nowhere betrays a more 
total want of sympathy with his character, than in his 
remarks on his religious habits. " He did not associate 
himself," says the Doctor, " with any denomination of Pro- 
testants ; we know rather what he was not, than what he 
was. He was not of the Church of Rome j he was not of 
the Church of England. 

" To be of no church, is dangerous. Religion, of which 
the rewards are distant, and which is animated only by 


faith and hope, will glide by degrees out of the mind, 
Unless it be invigorated and reimpressed by external 
ordinances, by stated calls to worship, and the salutary 
influence of example. Milton, who appears to have had 
full conviction of the truth of Christianity, and to have 
Regarded the Holy Scriptures with the profoundest venera- 
tion, to have been untainted by any heretical peculiarity of 
opinion, and to have lived in a confirmed belief of the 
immediate and occasional agency of Providence, yet 
grew old without any visible worship. In the distribution 
of his hours, there was no hour of prayer, either solitary 
or with his household ; omitting public prayers, he omitted 
alL M * 

Than these bold statements, nothing can be imagined 
more absurdly gratuitous. The assertion that Milton omit- 
ted periodical religious observances in his family, though 
not improbable, is altogether unauthorized? while the asser- 
tion that he neglected the duty of prayer, is, even on John- 
son's showing of Milton's character, so inconsistent, and so 
utterly unfounded withal, as to be absolutely ridiculous. 

It can hardly be imagined that the consideration of what 
posterity might think of his religious character ever crossed 
the mind of Milton. Still we find in the work before us 
a passage throwing some light on this matter, which 
deserves consideration : — 

" ' Although/ he says, * it is the duty of believers to join 
themselves, if possible, to a church duly constituted (Heb. 
v. 25), yet such as cannot do this conveniently, or with full 
satisfaction of conscience, are not to be considered as ex- 
cluded from the blessing bestowed by God on the churches.'-f 
This is an important passage, Dr. Sumner says, * because 
it discloses Milton's real views upon a point on which his 
opinions have been represented in a more unfavourable light 
than they seem to have deserved.' Bishop Newton remarks, 
* Johnson's Lives of the Poets, vol. i. pp. 215, 216. 
• f Idea Theologiae, B. i. ch. 29. 


,that in the latter part of his life, Milton was not a professed 
member of any particular sect of Christians, that he frequented 
no public worship, nor used any religious rite in his family. 
Whether so many different forms of worship as he had seen 
had made him indifferent to all forms ; or whether he 
thought that all Christians had in some things corrupted 
the purity and simplicity of the Gospel ; or whether he 
disliked their endless and uncharitable disputes, and that 
love of dominion and inclination to persecution, which he 
said was a piece of popery inseparable from all churches; 
or whether he believed that a man might be a good Christ- 
ian without joining in any communion ; or whether he did 
not look upon himself inspired, as wrapt up in God, and 
above all forms and ceremonies, it is not easy to determine: 
to his own Master he standeth or falleth : but if he was of 
any denomination, he was a sort of Quietist, and was fall 
of the interior of religion, though he so little regarded the 
exterior.' It has been candidly and judiciously stated, in 
a note upon this passage, by Mr. Hawkins, to which Dr. 
Sumner refers, ' that the reproach which has been thrown 
upon Milton, of frequenting no place of public worship in 
his latter days, should be received, as Dr. Symmons 
observes, with some caution. His blindness and other in- 
firmities might be in part his excuse; and it is certain 
that his daily employments were always ushered in by 
devout meditation and study of the Scriptures.' This 
observation, too, may be strengthened by Milton's expressly 
admitting, in the present treatise, the duty of uniting in 
practice external and internal worship, (B. ii. ch. 4.) though 
he also says, that * with regard to the place of prayer, all 
are equally suitable,' as in his * Paradise Lost ' he makes 8 
similar assertion (B. xi. 836)." 

It is not surprising that Milton's religious character 
should have been thus misunderstood, and especially by 
Johnson. That the latter was a devout man, need not be 
questioned; but his religion, seems to have been made np 


in no small measure, of a gloomy and temperamental fear 
of God ; while his theological views were singularly limited 
and crude. In the view of Milton, religion was an inti- 
mately and intensely personal thing : with Johnson it was 
corporative and national. Milton's religion was, except in 
its expansive tendencies, a solitary spirituality : Johnson's 
coarsely effloresced in material and obtrusive mechanism. 
In the realm of conscience, freedom was with Milton a 
sacred passion : subservience was with Johnson a stolid fate. 
No wonder that Milton was misunderstood, not only by 
Johnson, but by numerous biographers besidesi It requires 
some sympathy with his sentiments, to enable us to per- 
ceive that his religion was the result of Divine grace, 
operating on a mind inspired with the highest order of 
genius, and endowed with the most elaborately cultivated 
taste. The former would lead him to eschew the coarse 
materialism of the then established churches ; and the latter 
would incline him to withdraw, though in a spirit of 
respectful and affectionate consideration, from a community 
whose unseemly management of church affairs resulted from 
the combination of very slender qualifications, with the 
most fervid religious zeal, and an intense and most natural 
hatred of spiritual tyranny. Such a character was too 
vast to be weighed in any balances available to a mind like 
Johnson's. He had nothing to draw with, and the well 
was deep. His criticisms remind us of the satire of Bishop 
Watson on the geologists of his day, whom he compares 
to a gnat on the back of an elephant, pronouncing on his 
interior anatomy from the appearances it observed upon his 

To this I shall only add. a single sentence, illustrative 
of Milton's views of ministerial qualifications. "Any be* 
liever," he says, "is competent to act as an ordinary 
minister, according as convenience may require; provided 
only he be endowed with the necessary gifts ; these gifts 
constituting his mission." 


Milton's last publications were given to the world in the 
year 1674, which terminated his career. These were en- 
titled respectively, " Epistolarum Familiarium Liber umis," 
and "Prolusiones quaedam Oratorite in Collegio Christi 
habitae," both of which have been already sufficiently 
noticed. In November of this year, the gout, from which 
be had long suffered, prevailed over the enfeebled powers 
of life, and he expired so peacefully that the attendants in 
his chamber were not aware of the precise time of his de- 
parture. On the 12th of that month, his remains were 
interred, beside those of his father, in a vault in Cripplegate 
church. The chief monumental memorials of him are a 
bust from the chisel of Bacon, in the same church, and 
a monument in Westminster Abbey, which bears the fol- 
lowing needlessly-apologetic inscription from the pen of 
Dr. George, Frovost of King's College, Cambridge : — 

" Augusti regum eineres, sanctseque favillse 
Heroum ! vosque O venerandi nominis umbras ! 
Parcite quod vestris infensum regibus olim 
Sedibus infertur noraen ; liceatque supremis 
Funeribus finire odia, et mors obruat iras. 
Nunc sub foederibus coeant felicibus una 
Libertas et jus sacri inviolabile sceptri. 
Eege sub Augusto fas sit laudare Catonem." 

" Ashes of regal and of holy fame, 
Forgive the intrusion of a hostile name ! 
Cease human enmities with human life ! 
And Death, the great composer, calm your strife ! 
Lo ! dow the king's and people's rights agree : 
In freedom's hand the hallow'd sceptre see ! 
No jealous fears alarm these happier days : 
And our Augustus smiles at Cato's praise." 

The person of Milton was singularly beautiful, and his 
complexion especially was so fine as to give him an ap- 
pearance of juvenility in middle life. His eyes were dark 
grey, and retained their lustre after their vision was extin- 
guished. His hair, which was light brown, he wore parted 
at the top, and " clustering," as he describes that of Adam, 


upon his shoulders. His person was of the middle height, 
not fat or corpulent, but muscular and compact. His de- 
portment, according to his contemporary, Wood, was aflable, 
and his gait erect and manly, bespeaking courage and un- 
dauntedness. His ordinary habits are described with little 
variation by all his biographers. In his earlier life he was 
fond of robust exercises, and excelled in the management 
of the sword, which he commonly wore by his side. When 
blindness and the gout, with which he was early afflicted, 
confined him in a great degree to his house, he contrived a 
swing for the purposes of exercise j and to exercise, in one 
form or another, as the essential preservative of health, he 
regularly allotted one hour in the day.* Having injured 
his constitution in his youth by night studies, whence im- 
mediately proceeded those pains in his head of which we 
have before spoken, and that weakness in his eyes which 
terminated in the loss of sight, he corrected this practice as 
he advanced in years, and retired to his bed at the early 
hour of nine. He rose, however, as early as four o'clock 
in the summer, and five in the winter. The opening of his 
day was uniformly consecrated to religion. A chapter of 
the Hebrew Scriptures being read to him as soon as he was 
up, he passed the subsequent interval, till seven o'clock, in 
private meditation. From seven till twelve o'clock he either 
listened while some author was read to him, or dictated, as 
some friendly hand supplied him with its pen. At twelve com- 
menced his hour of exercise, which before his blindness was 
commonly passed in walking, and afterwards, for the most 
part, in the swing. His early and frugal dinner succeeded, and 
when it was finished, he resigned himself to the recreation of 
music. His voice, Richardson remarks, was delicately sweet 
and harmonious, and he would frequently accompany the 
instruments on which he played — the bass viol or the organ. 
From this he returned with fresh vigour to the exercise of 
* These and the following particulars are taken from Dr. Symmons' 
Life of Milton. 


his intellect ; to his books, or his composition. At six, he 
admitted the visits of his fjiends. He ordinarily took his 
supper at eight, and, having smoked a pipe, retired to rest 
at nine o'clock. The privacy of Milton's style of life in 
Bunhill Fields did not seclude him from the attentions of 
the learned and the noble." It is even said that curiosity 
led the two princes, Charles and James, to pay a visit to 
the aged bard. The story goes, that " the Duke of York 
expressed one day to the king, his brother, a great desire 
to see old Milton, of whom he had heard so much. The 
king replied that he felt no objection to the duke's satisfy- 
ing his curiosity : and, accordingly, soon afterwards, James 
went privately to Milton's house, where, after an introduc- 
tion which explained to the old republican the rank of his 
guest, a free conversation ensued between these very dissi- 
milar and discordant characters. In the course, however, 
of the conversation, the duke asked Milton whether he did 
not regard the loss of his eyesight as a judgment inflicted 
on him for what he had written against the late king. 
Milton's reply was to this effect : — ' If your highness thinks 
that the calamities which befal us here are indications of 
the wrath of Heaven, in what manner are we to account 
for the fate of the king your father ? The displeasure of 
Heaven must, upon this supposition, have been much 
greater against him than against me — for I have lost only 
my eyes, but he lost his head.' "** 

Richardson also informs us that he might be seen sitting 
before his door, in a grey coat of coarse cloth, in warm, 
sultry weather, to enjoy the fresh air ; and so, as well as in 
his own room, receiving the visits of people of distinguished 
parts as well as quality : and his funeral, as Toland in- 
forms us, was attended "by all the author's great and 
learned friends in London, not without a friendly concourse 
of the vulgar." 

Such was Milton — a man than whom England never 
* Symmolls , "Life oi MAlton, pp. 377, 378. 


produced another more worthy of her pride — a man raised 
by his endowments almost above the level and the lot of 
humanity — in whom a genius that resembled inspiration, 
and attainments which might have been thought too various 
and extensive for human capacity, were sanctified by the 
grace of God, and devoted to the freedom, the advancement, 
and the happiness of man. " A man," says his fondest bio- 
grapher, " who, if he had been delegated as the representa- 
tive of his species to one of the superior worlds, would have 
suggested a grand idea of the human race, as of beings afflu- 
ent with moral and intellectual treasure, who were raised 
and distinguished in the universe as the favourites and the 
heirs of heaven." With the eloquent Macaulay, we do not 
envy " the man who can study either the life or the writings 
of the great poet and patriot, without aspiring to emulate, 
not, indeed, the sublime works with which his genius has 
enriched our literature, but the zeal with which he laboured 
for the public good — the fortitude with which he endured 
every private calamity — the lofty disdain with which he 
looked down on temptations and dangers — the deadly hatred 
which he bore to bigots and tyrants — and the faith which 
he solemnly kept with his country and with his fame." 


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